Dictators make bonehead plays
If you've been following our conversation about the Syrian conspiracy theories, you know I'm holding at roughly 70% confidence the Assad regime was responsible for the gas attack. Most of my uncertainty stems from the difficulty of proving anything in the chaos of the battlefield (which was helpfully bombed flat by the regime right after the gas attack) and the conflicting stories I've been hearing about those Syrian army radio intercepts. I'll admit that some of my doubts come from the general incompetence of the Obama Administration. If Team Benghazi says it's a "slam dunk," anyone familiar with their history has to be at least somewhat skeptical.
The motives of various involved parties are interesting to consider. The rebels sure do have a lot of incentive to get American air power involved. The Assad regime had relatively little to gain by gassing a thousand people. But that's a long way from demonstrating Assad's innocence. Dictators make bonehead plays all the time, and as you were speculating, Assad might have had some devious reasons for wanting all this attention.
As to the motives of the Obama regime, well, I've been hearing for days that they didn't really want to get involved in Syria. Look how much of a hassle it's turning out to be! But I'm not convinced they were thinking that way going in. Obama is supremely confident in his political and persuasive skills. He's been looking a bit shell-shocked since public and congressional opposition to his proposed unilateral drive-by bombing of Damascus surged. I wonder if he thought getting a nice little war started was going to be a political plus. He'd rally the American people in a time of war, and contrary to the blather from Republican leadership about how doing Obama a favor on Syria will buy them insurance against his incessant charges of obstructionism, I think being a "war President" would give him an even better platform to castigate them for obstructing his agenda. Watch for the greatest deer-in-headlights expression evah from John Boehner when he discovers how wrong he is about that.
And for all the weaseling Obama and his team have been doing on "red lines" today, I have no doubt that the majority of them are sincerely appalled by the use of chemical weapons on a human level, and they really do believe in the ideal of an international community that can rule WMD beyond the pale... reflexes they managed to suppress when Saddam was gassing thousands of dissidents in Iraq, of course, but probably heartfelt today.