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The Day Vladimir Putin Pulled a Wyatt Earp

I don’t know whether to laugh or marvel at the alleged ingenuity. I really don’t think Obama and Kerry are that smart.

London, Monday, September 9th, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, made an off-hand remark during a press conference that Syria could avoid a U.S. missile strike if they turned over their chemical weapons–“….every single bit….to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that.” Kerry added: “But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”

Well, before you can tell somebody that they can’t do something, you are more than likely interrupted by the guy who just did it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin jumped in, saying that the Russians would be happy to collect Syria’s chemical weapons, more than likely because they sold them to Syria in the first place, but that’s another story. The hand-over will only work if the U.S. called off military action, he said, and the diplomats have been buzzing ever since.

There are two interpretations that, as of this writing, are making the rounds.

The first says that Kerry spoke off the cuff, and the unplanned remarks have thrown a monkey wrench into the enforcement of the “red line” thing that Obama says he never said. One article I read referred to a Congressional staffer calling this an “unmitigated clusterf***”. One pictures Obama standing in front of the mirror trying various chest-puffing poses before going on TV to tell the American people that the very threat of a strike scared Assad so much that he actually wiped with his right hand before grabbing at the thread of hope offered by John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, and knows a thing or two about kicking ass.

The other interpretation says that Obama, knowing the American public is against this, and that he’ll likely lose the Congressional “mother may I” vote, spoke with Putin at the G20 summit about this idea, and they agreed that John Kerry would float the boat at the London presser to see if Assad took the bait. The diplomats have been working out the details ever since, and this is how Obama solves problems: without firing a shot, unlike that idiot George W. Bush, who invaded two countries and still couldn’t catch Osama bin Laden. Obama will go on TV to tell Americans that he was going to bomb, but now he won’t, and isn’t he the best president ever?

Like Alice in her Wonderland, I’m not sure what to believe. I know what I want to believe, that Vietnam-vet John Kerry screwed up. But I also know a thing or two about back-room politics. Study the history of the Reagan presidency and you’ll find many examples of similar fake-outs and changes in direction. Congressional resistance and public opinion told Obama that he couldn’t win. Nobody cares about his red line or dead Arabs. I’m sure the unknown consequences of a bombing–the promised Syrian and Iranian retaliation, the Russians pledging to support Syria–reminded him, as it reminded me, of how World War I started. The first black president didn’t want to go down in history–if recorded history were to survive–as the man who began World War III because he drew a red line that he says he didn’t draw.

And Vladimir Putin, riding into town like Wyatt Earp–“Hand over your guns and throw up your hands!”–is the one who really saved the day. Without his promise to take charge of the Syrian chemical weapons, John Kerry would still be sitting in London telling us how this wouldn’t be possible.


BRIAN DRAKE is a broadcaster in California and the author of The Rogue Gentleman, a thriller in the tradition of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. Follow him on Twitter.

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