After vowing to respond if the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels, President Obama found his bluff called when evidence emerged that it had done just that. After weeks of deliberation, he elected to send some arms to the insurgents.
Critics will say that his assistance has been reluctant, minimal and ineffectual. And they're right about that. What they're wrong about is thinking that's a bad thing.
Today, The New York Times reports that experts think the effort "could take months to have any impact" and is unlikely to force President Bashir Assad to make peace. It looks as though Obama is doing just enough to say he's made good on his vow but not enough to actually affect the outcome.
That's fine. One thing that's clear is that we don't know what sort of government would come to power if the rebels were to emerge victorious. We also have no way to assure that any weapons we provide won't end up in the hands of al-Qaida fighters and their allies. We're meddling in something beyond our expertise.
It's not a good thing for a president to make threats he doesn't mean. It's also not a good thing for a president to entangle us in foreign wars we don't understand. Obama's course seems to avoid both pitfalls. And if it makes him look cynical, I can live with that.