Obama leading from behind as he is slowly sucked in to Middle East mire
Some wars you choose, but some wars choose you. Was there ever a better illustration of this oft-repeated wisdom than Syria's slow sucking in of President Barack Obama?
The man whose electoral rallying cry was that he opposed the war in Iraq; whose aim was to end the war in Afghanistan; who vetoed all of his senior advisers, one by one, as they urged action over President Bashar al-Assad, has been forced to accept that when the Levant calls, there is no escape.
He has left himself loopholes. However, America cannot get out of it now. It has staked its reputation on the rebels' survival, and it must surely be prepared to do whatever that takes.
While it is now hard to see the rebels winning outright, it is also unclear what a regime victory would look like.
Then there's the question of how much Syria's political backers, Iran and Russia, are prepared to up the ante. How determined are they for Mr Assad to win out?
Much depends on why they have so committed themselves to this fight. It is tempting to think that they also became stuck: condemned across the Middle East for their backing of a murderous dictatorship, they could only be vindicated if this truly became an international conflict.
There is still a chance, as Mr Obama hopes, of some sort of peace deal, with the mess and blame being spread around.
So slow has Mr Obama been to act, however, that there is a worse danger: that Russia and Iran will be quite happy to see America sink to its neck, humiliated by ever closer association with the jihadists who are supposed to be its sworn enemy. This is the nature of asymmetrical warfare.
Could Mr Obama have acted any differently? Perhaps the world was still not ready after the George W Bush years for America to take the lead in the Middle East.
The terrible option can still be better than all the others. But it remains the case that if you consciously lead from behind, as Mr Obama wants to do, you sometimes cannot see where you are going. (© Daily Telegraph, London)