While reading the summary of key 2013 events, when I got to the description that "Syria blinked," I had to blink myself. I assume the writer meant "Syria winked." At least that's about as much attention as Bashar al-Assad paid to President Barack Obama's red lines — or maybe they were dotted lines free to cross if you doubted any serious consequences.
When mounting evidence no longer permitted President Obama to avoid some response, he deftly pirouetted to Congress, asking unnecessary permission to take action ("Atypical images of war," Jan. 2). Still on the spot when Congress refused to provide cover, he grasped the remarkably naive idea of Secretary John Kerry conferring with Russian leadership to divest the Assad regime of chemical weapons. That's the same Russia that several weeks earlier denied the existence or use of any chemical weapons in Syria; was feverishly sending advanced anti-aircraft equipment to Syria to increase the risk of air attack on weapons production and storage; and who has blocked for years any significant United Nations action as Mr. Assad was killing an estimated 130,000 of his own people.
This arrangement gives 21st century international meaning to the old expression of the fox guarding the hen house. The only interest the Russians have in the Middle East is to foment and maintain unrest to keep the price of oil high to support Vladimir Putin's failed economy. A British observer called this the greatest diplomatic disaster in Western history, but I still think the Brits hold the record with Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" claim after the 1938 Munich Agreement.