The following comes from the transcript of a PBS interview President Barack Obama gave on Wednesday. If you can weed through the bits where he says nothing at all, it sounds like the diplomatic equivalent of a threat by the President to kick Syria in the groin:
I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it again. And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about – but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this..
Okay, it's hard to follow with all the in facts and you knows. By filtering it a bit, which any news agency will tell you is the only way to get to the heart of any potentially useful story, Mr. Obama is saying there are "repercussions..then the Assad regime, will have received a pretty strong signal, that..it better not do it again." Translation: knock it off, or you're going to regret it. Further, "we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict..but saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this."
Could it be more clear? Well, yeah, a lot more, but what it ultimately says is the U.S. is prepared for limited, tailored action that sends a clear message, while avoiding a drawn out conflict. Does that not sound like part of an exchange between adversaries squaring off in the schoolyard? Of course, the vocabulary is more refined, the President went to Columbia after all. But a clear and decisive conflict settling shot across the bow? Are we not about to kick Syria in the testicles? In all manner of dispute, what resolves a conflict more decisively than that?
From nations to squabbling neighbors, tradition shows that when the afflicted party recovers they are either wiser for having learned a valuable, if costly lesson, or they are mad as hell and looking for some payback. Unfortunately, right now Syria more resembles the elevate the conflict, throw-garbage-in-your-pool kind of adversary. The President's semi-threat may be as far as this goes, and that may be for the best. Otherwise the United States could very well come out of this with slashed tires and a bag of flaming dog excrement on it's porch.