After the most recent use of chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama is sheltering his next moves even from his closest advisers as the whole Obama administration inches painfully toward what they all see as the moment of truth in Syria.
Once again, he could walk away from the use of force because that option has little backing either in his administration or among Americans generally. But after an endless run of inter-agency meetings at the White House, the sense is that he is nearing three conclusions: first, the Syrian government has put his credibility on the line irrevocably and inescapably; second, he now must take direct military action to punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad, though not in a manner that commits him to further use of force; and third, he needs to combine whatever force he uses now with dramatic and diplomatic initiatives.
Officials expect White House decisions to come quickly at this point. Most officials openly lament how they are being whipsawed between a general consensus in the administration against employing U.S. military force backed by huge opposition to doing so (60 percent) among polled Americans, and a growing and potent consensus among foreign-policy experts and politicians to give Assad a hard punch.