President Obama's move to punt the decision on whether to attack Syria to Congress is a face-saving gesture by the commander-in-chief, who is dogged by his unfortunate remark about "redlines" and "moving a bunch of chemical weapons."
It's now up to Obama's unlikely ally House Speaker John Boehner to bail out the prestige of the Office of the President and maintain America's credibility among oversees friends, rivals and enemies. The Ohio Republican achieves those goals by winning Congressional approval for the bombing of Syria's chemical/military installations.
Obama caught a break today after Boehner said: "I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.
"We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behavior."
Boehner though created some wiggle room for himself, saying via a statement that it will be an "uphill battle" to pass the bombing measure through the Tea Party-packed Congress.
While PR suspense mounts in D.C., the well-respected International Crisis Group reports that any U.S. military strike are "largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people."
ICG's statement of Sept. 2 says though a U.S. air attack "might discourage future use of chemical weapons," it will have no impact if a desperate Syrian government finds itself fighting for survival.
ICR notes that Obama has stated that the U.S. focus is not in overturning the Assad regime. It believes Syria's leadership will register a post-attack propaganda victory "claiming it had stood fast against the U.S. and rallying domestic and regional opinion around an anti-Western, anti-imperialist mantra."
Following the U.S. military attack, the Syrian government will hardly be in the mood to negotiate a diplomatic settlement to the mess, according to the ICR. "Carefully calibrating the strike to hurt enough to change their calculations but not enough to prompt retaliation or impede diplomacy is appealing in theory. In practice, it almost certainly is not feasible," says the think tank.
In the event Congress approves the President's plan, the impact will have more of a positive impact on political Washington than in Syria. It will be a win based on PR vs. substance.