During the entire lead-up to action, the administration has repeatedly claimed this was only about chemical weapons. He said this was not about regime change, toppling Assad or getting more involved in a civil war, so a solution that fixes the chemical weapons problem is better than limited airstrikes ever could be, on paper this appears to be a big win-win for Obama. He gets to save face by “doing something” without having to wage a war deeply opposed by the American people.
The deal sounds so good that it would seem the only reason not to at least try it would be if Obama’s real goal was to find an excuse to justify greater involvement in the civil war. If Obama’s concern was about chemical weapons only, then this sounds like a win to the American people.
But if Obama’s real goal was to find a pretext to greatly increase help to the rebels, this would be a bad deal. Not pursuing this deal would make it appear that Obama had been purposely deceiving the American people. The fact that the administration at first tried to claim John Kerry’s offer was only “rhetorical” has already started creating the impression this was not just about chemical weapons.
If it even starts to appear that Obama lied to the American people regarding WMD to again get us involved in another war in the Middle East, this already unpopular action would become a legacy-destroying move. Something that could ruin his presidency in the eyes of the public.
Obama simply can’t afford not to at least try this deal. Not doing so could destroy his trust with Congress and the American people.