On a Sunday morning in late April, I was considering seriously a request I received from my friend John Kerry to join him at the State Department, and put some of the 18 years I spent on African issues as a U.S. Senator back to work on behalf of the United States.
The current debate on the use and ban of chemical weapons in Syria is a salient testimony to a seemingly forgone notion in crisis diplomacy: the downward spiral of conflict doesn't end until the strategic interests of the key players are addressed.
The Assad regime in Syria is reprehensible. The use of chemical weapons by any actor is unacceptable. Violence as a tool to effect political change is a monstrosity. All of these things are true, but none justify the United States taking the role of an avenging god.
By a limited definition of Article II, the president can act on the spot in an emergency to protect American interests. That authority is still not, in my opinion, a blanket permission to act unilaterally in Syria.
The United States is once again on the brink of war in the heart of the Middle East. While the necessity of some kind of military intervention -- if only symbolic in nature -- is now evident, the risks are enormous.
From subtle suggestions to diversionary rhetoric to preemptive flourishes, there is, save for Bill Clinton, no other president of the modern era better adapted to the art and science of influence and strategy.