On his trip to the Middle East, the president declared use of chemical weapons to be a “game changer” that would require a strong U.S. response. Now President Obama is in a box: Our allies have evidence of chemical weapons use and there is no way this president (“a decade of war is ending”) wants to do anything about it.

Secretary of State John Kerry (Melina Mera/The Washington Post)

The Post reports: “Britain and France have informed the United Nations that there is credible evidence that Syria used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December, according to senior diplomats and officials briefed on the accounts.” That is not what the U.S. administration wants to hear. (“James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel Thursday that accusations that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons are still being evaluated.”) It is obvious even at the U.N. that the United States is trying to avoid pinning the facts down.(“diplomats say the United States has responded more cautiously. The United States, said one Security Council diplomat, has been ‘less activist on this’ than Britain and France.”) I bet.

This is as foolhardy as it is shameful. The president was definitive, and if he really didn’t mean what he said, then he shouldn’t have said it. The U.S. dodging now signals to Tehran and Pyongyang that even when we draw a “red line,” we may not really mean it. That imperils our ability to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program and to contain Kim Jong Un. It is symptomatic of this administration in which every line is apparently written in sand. Neither Damascus nor Tehran (not to mention Jerusalem) believes we will take military action if needed to prevent acquisition or use of WMD’s in the Middle East. That makes it a far more dangerous place, and Americans far less safe. Senate and House oversight committees should raise a rumpus, get the appropriate officials under oath and find out why we’re acting like a government afraid of finding out we might have to actually lead from the front.