...Obama’s own intelligence links cast doubt on whether President Bashar al-Assad had actively ordered the chemical weapons attack of August 21, which seems more likely the action of a local colonel who either went rogue or made an error in mixing too much sarin into crowd control gases. The Ministry of Defense seems to have upbraided him....If Cole's speculation about what happened is true there is little point in attacking Assad's regime.
It is remarkable how important the Iraq experience has been in the debates on Syria, and how decisive. Even if the US goes ahead with the strike, it is likely to attempt to keep the action narrow and symbolic, and to avoid troops on the ground, and indeed, generally to stay out of the conflict thereafter as long as no more chemical attacks are launched. Whether it is possible to bomb Syria and then walk away like that isn’t clear; but it is the maximal Obama plan.
The other is from Bernard Avishai:
Anticipating Kerry's speech, I checked in again last night with my friend Charles Glass in London, a reporter who knows Syria and Lebanon as intimately as any American. A graduate of American University of Beirut, he's covered the region for 40 years; he was once held hostage by Hezbollah, accompanied the invasion of Iraq, and reported from Aleppo last year. He was preparing to fly to Damascus as we spoke.
And I came away from our conversation believing what Kerry surely understands, that there are essentially two strategic choices for the US, the first diplomatic, the second, significant armed intervention. ...At this point an all out attack would appear to be imprudent, and possibly without proper justification; it may be better to put new effort into diplomacy, which would mean engaging with the Russians, if the real goal is to end the suffering.
Short of taking down Assad's regime, then, the only serious strategy is diplomacy and Putin is the only serious partner. Once the smoke clears from the "limited attack," this portion will be, at best, what Obama and Kerry are left with.