Broadening the Syria Options, Beyond Bombing-or-Nothing

By James Fallows

From a reader with a lot of experience in politics and negotiation, following this post earlier today:

It's odd that the choice seems to be framed as airstrikes vs. do nothing.  

As I understand it, the management lesson from the Cuba Missile Crisis that is taught in the Kennedy School as well as our nation's business schools is that if someone hands you a hard constraint (as in, "We have only X hours within which to intercept the missile-carrying Soviet ships") your job is to try to turn it into a soft constraint ("Can't we buy ourselves more time by intercepting those ships closer to Cuba?") in order to create more options and more room to maneuver.  Airstrikes vs. do nothing is the sort of choice that one would think would be susceptible to this approach, while not ignoring that Assad "crossed a red line."  

I'm surprised that what stands as the received wisdom of the Cuba Missile Crisis doesn't even get mentioned in what I've managed to read about the choice(s) we face regarding Syria.

From another political veteran (both these writers are Democrats):
There are two unanswered questions:
1. What was the command and control of the Syrian government in the incident?
2. What has been the US diplomacy toward the Russia in seeking a pledge from Assad not to use chemical weapons?
 
So far the Obama administration has not answered the first and given no indication it's engaged in the second. Obama's handling, of course, has been singularly inept to be generous, down to failing to articulate or not even knowing its own objective. The rhetoric from Kerry (Munich, Holocaust, the St. Louis) has been profoundly offensive. Samantha Power's moralizing only persuades that the administration doesn't have a clear understanding or know its goal. 
 
What will happen?
 
The administration case is so weak (see questions above) that Pelosi will be reduced to whip members on the desperate appeal that they must vote "yes" to save Obama's presidency. This is a self-created crisis of Obama's presidency that he has turned into a general foreign policy crisis, not the other way around.
 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/09/broadening-the-syria-options-beyond-bombing-or-nothing/279447/