But, having drawn the line in the Syrian sand for poison gas, Obama could not ignore it.
BUT THE main reason for Obama's long hesitation is of quite a different order: he is compelled to act against the real interests of the United States.
Assad may be a terrible son-of-a-b*tch, but he serves the US, nevertheless.
For many years the Assad family has supported the status quo in the region. Israel's Syrian border is the quietest border Israel has ever had, in spite of the fact that Israel has annexed territory that indisputably belongs to Syria. True, Assad used Hizbullah to provoke Israel from time to time, but that was not a real threat.
Unlike Mubarak, Assad belongs to a minority sect. Unlike Mubarak, he has behind him a strong and well-organized political party, with an authentic ideology. The nationalist pan-Arabist Ba'ath ("resurrection") party was founded by the Christian Michel Aflaq and his colleagues mainly as a bulwark against the Islamist ideology.
Like the fall of Mubarak, the fall of Assad would most likely lead to an Islamist regime, more radical than the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The Syrian sister-party of the brothers was always more radical and more violent than the Egyptian mother-movement, (perhaps because the Syrian people are by nature of a far more aggressive disposition.)
Moreover, it is in the nature of a civil war that the most extreme elements take over, because their fighters are more determined and more self-sacrificing. No amount of foreign aid will prop up the moderate, secular section of the Syrian rebels strongly enough to enable them to take over after Assad. If the Syrian state remains intact, it will be a radical Islamist state. Especially if there are free, democratic elections, as there were in Egypt.
As seen from Washington DC, this would be a disaster. So we have here the curious picture of Obama driven by his own rhetoric to attack Assad, while all his own intelligence agencies work overtime to prevent a victory of the rebels.
As somebody recently wrote: it is in the American interest that the civil war go on forever, without any side winning. To which practically all Israeli political and military leaders would say: Amen.
So, from the US strategic viewpoint, any attack on Assad must be minimal, a mere pinprick that would not endanger the Syrian regime.
As has been noted, love and politics create strange bedfellows. At the moment, a very strange assortment of powers are interested in the survival of the Assad regime: the US, Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Israel. Yet Obama is being pushed to attack him.
TRYING TO understand the mindset of the CIA, I would say that from their point of view, the Egyptian solution is also the best for Syria: topple the dictator and put another dictator in his place. Military dictatorship for everybody in the Arab region.
Not the solution Barack Obama would have liked to be identified with in the history books.
Poor, poor Obama.