Once again, Washington has effortlessly beaten down Russian President Vladimir Putin in the arena of public opinion. In recent days, media from the US and Europe have chimed in with official accounts from the US and France, claiming that it was Syrian government troops who used chemical weapons. Some media even derided Putin for "acting crazy" over the Syria issue.
It is still unclear which side in Syria used chemical weapons. It should be noted that the so-called evidence presented by the US and France is too ambiguous and insufficient to convict Syria, an entire country, of crimes, and military strikes on Syria will very likely cause many casualties. As countries built on the rule of law, the US and France have made reckless decisions.
The problem is both Washington and Paris do not really care about international law. Every action they take on Syria stems from their own political judgment of Syria's national situation. Such a judgment is also based on their geopolitical interests in this area. It is irrational to say that someone who wants to stop a war is "crazier" than someone who wants to start one.
Washington has made its judgment - even if it turns out that chemical weapons were not used by Syrian government troops, the US knows it won't be held to account for launching such a misguided war, as it did in Iraq.
A journalist with the Associated Press has reportedly revealed the inside story, claiming that Syrian opposition forces mishandled chemical weapons. But this revelation has not been given enough attention since it was reported, either from the US government or Western media.
US President Barack Obama's decision to press the war button does not depend on sufficient proof, as requested by Russia. What he really cares about is how much risk it will cause to American domestic politics.
The US has fought two notorious wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a startling number of American soldiers were killed. And Washington is still bogged down by the post-war situation there.
The Taliban has regained political influence in Afghanistan. In Iraq, though the Saddam regime has been toppled, the democracy that the US vowed to build has shown its ugly side.
To make matters worse, nobody is really being held responsible for the chaos left by these two wars. President Bush has left office and doesn't need to concern himself with the consequences. Obama still has about three years left in the White House. As long as he manages his remaining time well, nobody will ask him to be responsible for Syria in a few years' time.
The two-party system in Washington is also to be blamed. Successive governments can shrug off responsibility for the mess in the Middle East. So striking the Assad regime, though potentially risky, means the stakes are much lower for the current US government.
The Assad regime, which has struggled for two years under intense pressure from Western countries, has already become a thorn in the side of the US. How much longer it can stand will test whether and to what extent the pattern of global powers has shifted.