The Bear Trap.
Right now, Assad may be breathing a sigh of relief that there’s no immediate action.
But Obama has put Assad’s foot in a bear trap. Instead of giving him an immediate war, Obama has given Assad a situation where he cannot control things. His fate now rests with a fickle U.S. Congress who may or may not vote war. It is in their mind his fate rests. Right now it looks like a “no” but if he does not refrain from further atrocities, then the “no” becomes a quick yes, giving Obama full authority to wage war. And further atrocities just may change Parliament’s mind as well. But can he? Or contol others who want to do so?
But Assad cannot extricate himself from the trap: he cannot make the warships go away, and any effort to do so brings about an even wider war. Right now the objective is not regime change per se: but if he tries to make a move, it becomes regime change immediately.
In the mean time, Obama can simply continue preparations and monitor events in Syria even more closely with his warships in place, listening in on encrypted radio traffic, using sensors and satellites and covert operators to monitor the Syrian army’s movements.
But if Assad was that shrewd he wouldn’t be in the situation like what Khadaffi or Osama was in: biting off more than he could chew, hunched inside a fortified house waiting for the end that will inevitably come. Indeed, things would be normal in Damascus: people walking around on a sunny Saturday afternoon shopping and visiting. Assad himself could go to a villa and enjoy the sunshine. Shrewd, and legitimate power can go outside and on vacation even during crisis. Lincoln had a summer home outside Washington when the weather got too hot. FDR could go to Warm Springs. Obama can take Michelle out to dinner. But Assad can no longer trust that even his own locals won’t turn on him if given an opportunity. And now the world has turned on him.
And he may fear that more than ships at sea. If he acts on that fear, then he makes the other trap close shut on him.