American President Barack Obama could not be more right in his instincts to punish Bashar al-Assad for using poison gas on his own people.
When the president earlier this year said the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria would cross a "red line," he was right and I applaud his leadership in saying so.
And I still applaud the president's stand on Syria, though there is now considerable conversation about his halting leadership.
Just last week he sent out Secretary of State John Kerry to make the case for the urgent, unilateral use of military force against Syria to "send a message" to Assad and, by extension, Iran that any use of WMDs would trigger a swift response.
Then, in less than 24 hours, the president cut his own secretary off at the knees, saying that he had decided to seek congressional approval for a war strike against Syria. Gone was a swift response. Gone was the urgency outlined by Kerry.
Today, Kerry is lobbying Congress. Given the president's fecklessness on the urgency issue, can we really trust anything Kerry says to Congress in terms of what the Obama Administration may or may not do? On a secondary point, the administration is apparently trying to make military action in Syria sound not like a real war ... or at least not like the Iraq war. But let's get square on that point. It is war. If Syria lobbed missiles at Washington, D.C., would we not consider it war. Of course we would. Anytime there is military action, there are responses that are unpredictable and we've got to be prepared for any response, especially one that requires an escalation of military action.
While Kerry does his best in Washington, the president is in Sweden answering questions from an international press.
There, the president made the rather odd point that the red line on WMDs isn't really "my red line" but the "world's red line." However, I remain proud of the president when he stays the course on the need to punish those who use WMDs.
We now need to stop stumbling around and make our actions match our words. I think this president will do that. I also have little doubt that Congress will back his play, despite the irony of all this in the context of the rhetoric of the president and Congress on George Bush's little war in Iraq.
To that end, may I recommend Jeffry Goldberg's essay this morning from the Bloomberg news service that evaluates the discussion in Washington, especially as it relates to Israel. George Bush must be laughing, he says.
Look, there's no getting around the president's clumsy leadership on Syria. But I give him credit for sticking with it when, no doubt, his base would just as soon do nothing. But the president apparently believes, as I do, that we can't do nothing when WMDs are used in the world. The sooner the better, Mr. President. The sooner the better.