(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Obama told the PBS NewsHour Monday that in his response to Syria “my intention throughout this process has been to ensure that the blatant use of chemical weapons that we saw doesn’t happen again. If in fact there’s a way to accomplish that diplomatically, that is overwhelmingly my preference.”
At the time, he and his aides were still lobbying members of the House and Senate to provide him with an authorization to use military force against Syria. And it was presumed that the president would use tonight’s speech to the nation to make the argument for that unpopular proposal.
He will speak about the same topic tonight. But with prospects for a diplomatic solition strengthened by a series of dramatic developments Tuesday, he can come at it from a very different perspective.
Instead of talking about the necessity of military intervention, he can talk about the prospect of advancing human rights through diplomacy.
He can admit that this is not easy—acknowledging that he has struggled to get the calculus right. He can explain that there is nothing “soft” about the pursuit of what he has referred to as a “just peace.” He can help Americans to recognize why it is necessary to communicate with, to negotiate with, Syrian leaders whom he and his aides have condemned.
The president’s speech can be instructive. Even, perhaps, hopeful.
He has time for that now.
That’s because Obama has asked for a delay in congressional action on his request. The Washington-insider journal Politico reported Tuesday afternoon that Obama “wants Congress to delay its efforts to vote on authorizing the use of force in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons until the round of diplomatic efforts that began this week has a chance to play out.”
After the president met with senators Tuesday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that, while Obama wants “the credible threat of our doing something about this (chemical weapons) attack…to remain,” he also wants time to have the United States work with France and the United Kingdom, in consultation with Russia and China toward what the White House refers to as “verifiable and enforceable destruction” of Syria’s chemical weapons.