Stumbling and dithering are no way to run the nation's foreign policy. But fortuitously they have delivered the United States to a better place on Syria than where it was four days ago, when the only options were to bomb or not to bomb.
With President Barack Obama's push for a military strike in response to Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons becoming less popular by the minute, the administration stumbled Monday into an opening for a diplomatic solution. That's when Secretary of State John Kerry made an off-the-cuff remark that Assad could avoid an attack if he turned over his stockpile of chemical weapons to the international community.
Russia, Assad's arms dealer and enabler, ran with the offer. And Assad admitted for the first time that he has the banned weapons and said he's willing to hand them over to be destroyed. That remains to be seen. Still, it rescued Obama, at least for the moment. So now Congress should dither. It postponed votes on the use of force, as Obama requested Tuesday when he addressed the nation. That delay should continue as long as diplomacy is a viable option. This may be nothing more than a ploy by Russia and Assad to buy time. But if Congress eliminates the threat of an air attack, it would remove the only incentive Assad has to actually hand over his weapons.
At best, the road to that outcome will be arduous and the possibility has ushered in a new set of challenges. A proposal is a long way from a meaningful deal. And even if one is reached, rounding up chemical weapons in the middle of a war will be difficult and can't be done without boots on the ground. So the next question is, Whose boots?
Obama isn't out of the woods on Syria by a long shot. But it's at least possible now that he could achieve U.S. aims without embroiling the nation in another Middle East war.