President Barack Obama got ahead of himself and his advisers when he said that Syria using chemical weapons would cross a "red line," the New York Times reports.
“How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” an unnamed Obama administration official tells the paper. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
But they concluded that drawing a firm line might deter Mr. Assad. In addition to secret messages relayed through Russia, Iran and other governments, they decided that the president would publicly address the matter.
Several officials said they recalled no discussion about the “red line” phrase but suspected that it came out of the election-year conversation about Iran and how far to allow its nuclear program to progress before being forced to take action. It was a concept that was “embedded in people’s prefrontal cortex,” one of the officials said.
While surprised at the president’s use of the term in regard to Syria on Aug. 20, advisers concluded that it had succeeded, at least for a while, since months passed with no chemical weapons attack.
But if the tough rhetoric "succeeded" for a time, it appears to have backfired in the long-run. Because Syria has now apparently used chemical weapons, and President Obama is not willing to do anything about it.
In fact, Obama is now downplaying any sort of response, even before settling on a specific response to Syrai crossing the red line.
“As a general rule, I don’t rule things out as commander in chief because circumstances change and you want to make sure that I always have the full power of the United States at our disposal to meet American national security interests,” Obama commented on Syria, while speaking at news conference in Costa Rica. Then, Obama went on to contradict himself.
“Having said that, I do not foresee a scenario in which boots on the ground in Syria, American boots on the ground in Syria, would not only be good for America, but also would be good for Syria,” the president said.