The HoverRound community from my wife's side of the family is screaming about this being the beginning of WWIII, and several young kids on our MC server were all in a panic this morning over some similar "news" they must have heard their parents loudly squawking about over the breakfast table.
So more or less exactly as planned. You do understand that the entire reason to spend so much time publicly debating and thinking and planning about what to do with Syria is to generate the maximum amount of angst and public reaction possible, right?
What Obama Should Have Done: Ordered an airstrike to hit a handful of military and command/control sites within 48 hours of confirmation that chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime. Then go on TV and say he did this as a punitive response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad, and he'll do it again if he uses them again. Sends a strong message to Assad that he cares about winning his civil war more than we do and not to call Obama's bluff on this. Also sends a strong message to the next guy to think about using chemical weapons to think again. Oh. And also makes Obama (and the US) look like a bad-ass.
Had he done this, there would have been more or less zero political fall out. His action would have been viewed as a clear message against chemical weapons use and not a specific act to involve the US in the Syrian civil war. There might have been some grumblings about unilateral action and whatnot, but as long as it's just a single air strike, congress really can't do anything. It's done, not ongoing, so congress doesn't have much power in that regard (just like every other president who's ordered an airstrike in reaction to some event around the world without asking congress first). All congress can do is censure him (or I suppose attempt to impeach him), but we all know they wont actually do anything in that situation. The action would have been popular and by the time anyone could even raise the question of involvement in the civil war, it would be over, so no real story to tell.
By choosing to drag this out, he's making the aspects of this which should have had nothing at all to do with his original red line position front and center in the debate. It's why everyone is talking about how we shouldn't get involved in a civil war rather than talking about how to prevent folks from using chemical weapons. And, as I've said before, this was deliberate. It's not like we haven't seen a clear pattern in Obama's governing style. If he has a choice between doing something easy, straightforward, and which everyone can agree on, versus doing something that will create conflict, concern, and disagreement (ideally partisan disagreement), he'll choose the latter every single time. He's following the rules of political agitation, because that's what he knows.