The outcome of Vladimir Putin's bold military gamble in Syria is far from clear, but in the short term, one loser seems certain: President Obama.
The Kremlin raised the stakes Wednesday by firing cruise missiles into Syria from warships nearly 1,000 miles away as Obama's critics at home and abroad said Putin's escalating attempt to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad already has made the White House look weak and wavering.
The White House has been poised for weeks to quietly shift more U.S. military support to seasoned Kurdish militias and other rebel fighters in northern Syria. But at this point, any change in policy will appear to be in response to Putin's muscular moves, not a new initiative to help solve the multi-sided conflict.
Middle Eastern allies who have chafed at Washington's reluctance to plunge into the 4-year-old civil war have been impressed by how the Russian president has come to an ally's defense, even if they don't like his goals or his ally, Arab officials say.
In Washington, political leaders, from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, now the Democratic presidential front-runner, to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, are criticizing Obama for not doing more to stop a war that has killed more than 200,000 people, fueled Islamic State and sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe.And it gets worse as it goes on.
I don't think President Obama has addressed the hospital bombing yet, even though he was lecturing America on gun control within hours after the Oregon shooting.
And speaking of not addressing issues on his watch, to the best of my knowledge President Obama has not visited, flown over, or said anything about the catastrophe unfolding in South Carolina even as we "speak." Fourteen dams have failed and many more fail. And nothing said from the White House.
And bombing the hospital in Afghanistan is clearly a war crime.