Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

September 12, 2013

Eleventh hour

How the Syria plan broke through, just in time

WASHINGTON — “We’ve kind of hit a wall,” President Barack Obama commented last week on his way to Russia. He meant his relationship with Moscow, but the remark came to apply as well to other leaders abroad, lawmakers at home and Americans at large, all standing in the way of what he wanted to do about Syria, which was to attack it.

Just days later, military action is on hold, a diplomatic effort to have Syria turn over its chemical weapons has some steam and Obama no longer looks so terribly alone. The potential way out took shape with an episode akin to palace intrigue: Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling up chairs in a corner of a stately room at the summer home of Peter the Great, after a very late night of fireworks and lasers etching the St. Petersburg sky. And it grew from there.

It’s all been enough to stir some gushing admiration in the halls of Congress for a clever president who knows how to conduct statesmanship when the pressure’s really on. The president of Russia, that is.

“Those people who have been demonizing Putin and pushing him away have been doing a great disservice to our country and to the cause of peace,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

That sentiment is far from unanimous in Congress. But the sense of relief that has washed over lawmakers is palpable. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been pushing Obama’s case for military strikes, commented that, really, “I’m not a blood and thunder guy. I’m not for shock and awe.”

Instead, almost everyone seems up for dither and defer at the moment.

A look at how the past days’ parallel tracks — pushing for approval of a military attack while pausing to give diplomacy a chance — unfolded:

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