We begin with the central question that the President will have to address, summed up by Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post:
[I]f the attack is designed to be so limited, why bother? Why not just send a special envoy to give Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad a stern talking-to, followed perhaps by a reassuring hug? [...]

In trying so hard to convince everyone that Syria will not be another Afghanistan or Iraq, however, Kerry and others speaking for the administration — including President Obama himself — have undermined their case for a strike.

The New York Times editorial board:
The Obama administration has good reason to be skeptical of any promises made by the Assad regime or its Russian backers. Mr. Assad, who has denied using chemical weapons, could begin by actually acknowledging that he has the weapons, which Western nations say amount to hundreds of tons of nerve gas and blister agents.

Nonetheless, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry should pursue this possible solution. The removal and destruction of stockpiles of weapons would ensure greater safety for the Syrian people. And it would have longer lasting deterrent effects than the limited strikes Mr. Obama wants to deliver, without the likelihood of more civilian casualties. [...]

The diplomatic proposal creates at least a pause in the action. It could mean that the United States would not have to go it alone in standing firm against the Syrian regime. And it could open up a broader channel to a political settlement between Mr. Assad and the rebels — the only practical way to end this war. It could also be a boon for Mr. Obama, personally, because he could take credit for pushing Syria and Russia into making this move.

David Rothkopf at CNN:
[E]ven should it blow up, appearing to consider it allows Obama to be able to say he had exhausted all diplomatic options to resolve the problem. And for the more the hawkishly inclined, it would also be seen as reminder that military pressure is often key to producing peaceful, political outcomes.

Either way, for a moment, an idea that might ultimately seem to be in the interest of Obama (a "potentially positive development," he said), Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, arguably, the Syrian Opposition (to the extent they no longer might face chemical weapons) gained surprising traction. This was thanks in part to the seeming misstep of America's current top diplomat, to his swift interaction with his Russian counterpart, and the added weight his predecessor's views brought to the matter.

Much more analysis on these latest developments below the fold.

James Carroll at The Boston Globe writes about "the strength not to react with force":

If the United States were to choose not to launch a military strike against Assad, despite the compelling arguments in favor of doing so, a new course of history could likewise be opened. American unilateralism, presidential overreach, the myth of stopping violence with more violence, the hypocrisy of US moral triumphalism, the absurdity of defending international norms by breaking international law — all of this would be different the day after Congress voted no; after President Obama, reckoning with a dynamic toward restraint that he himself initiated, announced a massive new diplomatic offensive against the Assad regime, in place of the battery of missile strikes that, once, had seemed inevitable. It’s always possible to act. The moral thing to do is to find a way of acting that doesn’t make things worse.
Over at The Los Angeles Times, the editors argue that "the road to Damascus" needs to be paved with solid evidence:
[As diplomatic measures are considered], Obama will presumably continue his struggle to build support for a military strike, a plan that has divided the country and that faces an uphill climb in Congress. But this much is certain: The president will be more successful in that appeal if the government makes public the evidence it says it has amassed showing that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb last month that killed hundreds of civilians. [...]

Not every opponent of military action against Syria questions the administration's account of who is responsible for the carnage captured on those unsettling videos. Some freely accept that the Assad government, if not Assad himself, ordered the attack, but worry about the consequences of even the "limited and tailored" operation the administration says it is planning. But there are other Americans who accept the "red line" Obama laid out but aren't convinced that the Syrian regime crossed it. They're entitled to the evidence.

Finally, Dana Milbank chimes in on the White House PR strategy:
Monday found [UN Ambassador Susan] Rice at the New America Foundation, delivering intelligence estimates such as “we do not assess that limited military strikes will unleash a spiral of unintended escalatory reactions” and “we assess” that Syria has used chemical weapons “on a small scale multiple times since March,” and “intelligence we’ve gathered reveals senior officials planning the attack.”

Rice, two months on the job, delivered her speech in an odd cadence, as though she had been instructed not to say more than a few words at a time. In her take-no-prisoners style, she literally dared lawmakers to vote against military action:

“Every adult American. Every member. Of Congress. Should watch those videos. For themselves. See that suffering. Look at the eyes. Of those men and women. Those babies. And dare to turn away. And forsake them.”

If that didn’t irk lawmakers enough, Rice will be on Capitol Hill to brief them on Wednesday — a year to the day after the Benghazi attack.

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