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Commentary: Obama's turn on Syria reflects changing times

English.news.cn   2013-09-11 13:55:52            

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday evening embraced the Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control, opting for a way out of the bind he found himself in after his push for Congressional authorization of a military strike yielded little result.

The sharp turn from military action to multilateral diplomacy signifies the changing times in which Americans are ready to look inward.

Obama surprised many when he decided to seek Congressional approval for his planned strike to punish Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons, as it reversed decades of precedents in which the decision for overseas military ventures remained a presidential prerogative.

But the political climate in the United States is fast changing, and the public are weary from years of military interventions in distant lands and the state of perpetual war they bring, including thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The alarming benefit-cost ratio in those military ventures appalled the American public. That is partially why the military plan against Syria was met with little enthusiasm.

Multiple polls point to almost identical results: some 60 percent of Americans oppose a strike against Syria, while support lingers between 20 and 30 percent.

The logic is simple: the country itself is in desperate need of attention and nurture after a long economic slump, and Americans are looking decidedly inward.

It is also unhelpful to the president that Washington is bitterly divided politically, and he has to rely on the people to overcome Republican obstructionism for much of his domestic agenda in the second term. The danger of undertaking an unpopular military intervention needs no introduction.

Mindful of this, Obama opted for a national discussion on whether to launch missiles into Syria and the extent to which America should project her power overseas in a changed time.

His intensive push for Congressional authorization yielded little result, and vote counts by media outlets showed strong bipartisan division in both chambers of Congress. If the vote were to take place today, the resolution may fail, leaving the president humiliated.

This is when Secretary of State John Kerry made the seemingly off the cuff statement, in which he said to avert a military strike, Assad should "turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay." It was picked up and turned into a proposal by Russia, and welcomed by Syria.

In this almost accidental development, Obama saw a way out of the losing battle to persuade Congress and the American people to bomb yet another country, and quickly seized the opportunity.

Related:

Obama asks Congress to delay Syria vote

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to delay the vote on the resolution authorizing military attack against Syria, in order to give diplomatic process more time to work, media reports quoted senators as saying Tuesday.

Obama's request came during a lunch meeting with Democrats at Capitol Hill. A Senate vote on the military action against Syria " would be delayed until next week, at the earliest," Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin was quoted by Politico as saying after the president's meeting with Senate Democrats. Full story 

Kerry to meet Russian counterpart on diplomatic solution to Syria crisis

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday to discuss Russia's proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to avert a U.S. military strike, a media report said Tuesday.

A U.S. State Department official has confirmed the meeting, according to a report published by the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill on its website. It did not disclose further details of the meeting or how long Kerry will stay in Geneva.Full story

Putin urges U.S. to drop military strike plan against Syria

MOSCOW, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that placing Syrian chemical weapons under international control makes sense only if the U.S. drops its military strike plan against Syria.

"Certainly, all this makes sense and can work only if we hear that the U.S. side and everyone who supports the U.S. in this sense drops the idea of using force," Putin said in a statement published on the Kremlin website.Full story

News Analysis: Russian proposal for Syria's chemical weapon could benefit Israel

JERUSALEM, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- A Russian proposal for Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons to international supervisers may avert an almost certain American attack on Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama stated last month that the United States would punish the Syrian government over its alleged use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21, and initiated a buildup of American forces in the region.Full story

Opposition to Syrian military strike increases: polls

WASHINGTON, Sept.10 (Xinhua) -- Poll results released Tuesday indicate the majority of Americans are concerned that U.S. military strike against Syria will become a long and costly involvement, while multiple recent polls show opposition to the potential attack has increased over the past weeks.

A survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY conducted during Sept. 4-8 showed 63 percent of Americans oppose the U.S. military action against Syria, but the percentage of opposition was only 48 percent during Aug.29 to Sept.1. On the contrary, the ratio of Americans who support the strike almost remained the same, which is less than 30 percent.Full story

Kerry says U.S. not to wait long for Syrian chemical weapons proposal

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said that Washington won't wait for long for a Russian proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

"We're waiting for that proposal. But we're not waiting for long," Kerry said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria. "It has to be swift. It has to be real. It has to be verifiable," he added.Full story

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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