U.S. President Barack Obama, perhaps more than any other world leader, knows how rapidly our world is changing. In fact, this may have been one of the things that contributed to his meteoric rise in politics, taking him from the Illinois Senate to the White House in four short years.
Obama is no longer a political novice and he is far from naive. He had probably hoped that the new world, which seems to have been tailor-made for him, would also promote a new agenda, one that would suit his own. He was willing to sacrifice some of the status and strength of the world's No.1 power to make this world a better place, one where we are all brothers.
Reality, however, is different and much crueler. Obama, who tried to shirk responsibility during the Arab Spring -- and lost Egypt as a result -- now faces an internal ideological conflict when it comes to Syria: What is more important -- dodging a military conflict, or looking the other way when Syrian President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons on his people?
Obama has woken up from his pipe dream just in time to realize that our new world sports the same old order. There are good guys and bad guys, and the U.S. has many rivals in the international arena that are unwilling to cut it any proverbial slack, like Russia, China, Indonesia, Brazil and India. He has realized that Russia is still the same old Soviet Union, that the Arab world is as divided as ever, and that there will always be some sadistic leader out there who will not hesitate to use whatever means at his disposal to stay in power.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also undergoing a rude awakening of sorts these days. Kerry, who returned from his multiple tours in Vietnam as a stern opponent of war, now finds himself the biggest advocate of a strike on Syria.
The biggest problem Obama and Kerry face is that the changing world, including allies such as Britain and Germany, is now refusing to listen to them.
Global surveys clearly indicate the international community's reluctance to support military intervention in Syria. A survey conducted by a prominent German institute in the U.S. found that 75 percent of Americans oppose a strike on Syria. An ABC News poll found that only 19% of the American public support a military campaign in Syria and 72% oppose it. In the same poll British support of a strike was also only 19%, and the same went for Turkey, despite Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's own support of it. In France, only 36% of the public agree with President Francois Hollande, who supports Obama.
What do we have to do with dead Syrian children, the polls say. In such a political climate, it is no wonder that Obama passed this hot potato to Congress.
The big question is, of course, what will Obama do if Congress votes him down, as the British Parliament did to Prime Minister David Cameron in August, for the first time since the 18th century. Even with the important support of Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, the American president has taken a big risk, especially after failing to put together an international coalition.
Obama now faces three possible scenarios. In the first, Congress greenlights a strike on Syria, thus legitimizing the move. In the second, Congress votes him down and the Obama administration launches a strike without declaring war, as his predecessor George W. Bush did in Iraq -- and the last thing in the world Obama wants is to be mentioned in the same breath as Bush. In the third, Congress votes him down and Obama nixes his plan of attack entirely.
The third option is the Obama administration's nightmare scenario, as it will deal his legacy and Washington's credibility a fatal blow, essentially giving Russian President Vladimir Putin his first victory in the new cold war, after U.S. President Ronald Reagan won the last round. And that is without saying a word about the potential festivities in Damascus and Tehran.
"We are not talking about going to war. This is not Iraq and it's not Afghanistan. It's not even Libya or Kosovo ... This is our Munich moment. This is our chance to join together and pursue accountability over appeasement," Kerry said Saturday, referring, of course, to the 1938 agreement that ceded part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in an attempt to appease Adolf Hitler, which did little to maintain the free world's dignity. Just like the recent polls on Syria.