It should be said that Syrian president Bashar al Assad is guilty of quite a bit. He has engaged in a staggering pattern of domestic oppression and systemic genocide. If he and his security forces have in fact used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, it would only be the latest war crime they are guilty of. That said, it is highly unlikely that bombing them will lead to anything productive.
US president Barack Obama is never easy to read. All presidents say they are keeping "all options on the table." Obama really does. There are some good reasons for that and some bad ones. Nonetheless, it would be fair to say that Obama throughout his tenure has eschewed conventional military intervention fairly consistently. That leaves aside his dubious use of drone strikes. One thing is certain, if Obama had ordered the US military to strike Syrian targets on his authority alone, the bombs would have fallen. Whatever his reasons, he chose not to go that route.
It should also be noted that Obama has come under ceaseless pressure from the US and Israeli right-wingers to use broad-scale military intervention in a number of regions, including Iran and Syria, and has -- up until now -- found a way out.
It would appear that by engaging Congress and humoring the Russians, he aspires to make the best of a bad situation. Clearly he is again hearing the arguments for military intervention from close confidants, of which John Kerry is at this moment the most visible.
Will Congress find a way to facilitate war? Are the Russians playing yet another duplicitous card game? We shall see. Obama however deserves some credit for avoiding the quicksand -- so far.