Commentary: Obama’s turn on Syria reflects changing times

WASHINGTON, (PNA/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.