From the NY Times:
GENEVA — The United States and Russia have reached an agreement that calls for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday.There are still a lot of caveats, despite my exuberant title. But if the agreement holds, President Obama will, without question, have emerged with yet another foreign policy triumph. Rather than a missile strike designed to make clear that Syria should never again use chemical weapons, we have an agreement that will make sure that Syria has no chemical weapons to use. And it will be done without the use of force, with all of its unforeseeable consequences.
(snip) “This is very, very difficult, very, very difficult,” an American official said of the agreement. “But it is doable.”
(snip) Mr. Kerry said that any violations would then be taken up under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes punitive action. But Mr. Lavrov made clear that Russia, which wields a veto in the Security Council, had not withdrawn its objections to the use of force.
Now, nothing in this agreement ends the Syrian civil war, in which 100,000 people have lost their lives, the majority of whom have been killed by the Assad regime's forces. Nothing can bring them back, and, I would argue, no military action taken by the U.S. can either bring that war to an end or even significantly reduce suffering (if at all).
However, it is a very good thing for the U.S. if we are able to avoid taking military action while still accomplishing something positive for Syria. However we got there, if the threat of using force proves successful in getting chemical weapons out of Syria, that's a real victory for the White House and our country's position in the world. A weakened U.S. that no one either fears or respects is not a good thing for the world's stability, no matter what Vladimir Putin might think.
Could this all blow up (literally and figuratively)? Sure. But for now, at least it looks like real success is in the offing. That's something all Americans can and should be proud of.
P.S.—Please check out my new book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published by Potomac Books, where I discuss Barack Obama's ideas on racial, ethnic, and national identity in detail, and contrast his inclusive vision to language coming from Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh and (some) others on the right. You can read a review by Daily Kos's own Greg Dworkin here.