There’s an expression golfers use: you drive for show, but you putt for dough.
When it comes to Syria, both Vladimir Putin and President Obama have been doing plenty of driving, but very little putting.
Obama’s bellicose stance has lacked support among people in the United States and the west in general. In other words, he is playing the role of a paper tiger.
Putin has been all talk and no action while raising the specter of further chaos that would erupt in Syria if the U.S interferes militarily, but he has offered nothing to deal with the mess as it exists. Nothing until now. Give him credit for playing off of Secretary Kerry’s extemporaneous remark about securing Syria’s chemical warfare arsenal.
As Kerry has suggested, it would be a tough, at best, to round up and destroy Assad’s stockpile of poison gas, especially in the middle of a civil war where the Islamist/Al Qaeda faction would love to get their hands on some of it for future use. Transporting the gas through contested territory would provide an opportunity for the rebels to seize some of it.
It does not help that Obama wants to tie the proposed deal to the use of force if it does not succeed or amounts to a sham. It is not just a matter of an empty threat – or else the effective end of the Obama presidency if he pulled the trigger without Congress and the people behind him. This is a perfect opportunity to allow Putin to put his money where is mouth is. The United States can use moral suasion, not a missile strike, to pressure the former KGB hack to do good instead of being an obstacle in the UN Security Council. If he doesn’t produce, it will be his reputation, his international credibility that suffers.
If Obama insists on the threat of an attack and the deal collapses, Putin can blame the failure on the use of extortion by the United States.
Regardless, the killing will continue no matter what happens.
So let Putin take the pressure putt.