Cabinet meeting

New York Times photographer Doug Mills shot an overhead view of the president meeting with his cabinet—sans Secretary Kerry who is in Geneva negotiating international takeover of Syria’s chemical arsenal with the Russian foreign minister. I note that the president is flanked on his side of the table by four women and two men; I wonder if such an alignment occurred in previous administrations:

President Obama meets with his Cabinet… missing is Secretary Kerry. #Syria pic.twitter.com/gGEPcA37pN

— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) September 12, 2013

Syriously? Another War?!

No matter how narrowly you try to define it, lobbing missiles into another country is an act of war. The term was carefully avoided in the US Senate foreign relations committee today. The unquestioned assumption seemed to be that the US military can act with impunity and no repercussions. Secretary of State Kerry, however, made a scarey slip when asked if the Authority to Use Military Force resolution could be narrowed to exclude authority to “put US boots on the ground.” Kerry painted a scenario in which US troops might need to be called in to protect the Syrian chemical arsenal from falling into the wrong hands if the Assad regime fell.

A part of me wants to believe that President Obama is using the time and cover of the workup to a congressional decision on attacking Syria to direct some serious behind-the-scenes diplomacy to avoid the need. I’d hoped we’d gotten beyond the old “my rocket’s bigger than yours” approach to foreign policy with this president.

The cynical part of me fears that our national testosterone overload has the president drawing a bloody line in the shifting Middle Eastern sand that he feels he must defend even though the sands have obscured his vision of the line and its purpose. When it comes to retribution, we’re dealing with people who have blood-feuds running through their veins.

French spies report that the Syrian regime has hundreds of tons of sarin, mustard and VX gases in its sophisticated chemical weapons arsenal. If Bashar al-Assad has actually ordered the gassing of his people, offer him some simple choices—amnesty from a trial at the Hague in exchange for stepping down; otherwise he’s overthrown and/or assassinated. He’s got to see where this is headed, but maybe he can’t.