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Sep. 4, 2013

The Syrian Political Charade

A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. attacking Syria.

A funny thing happened on the way to the U.S. attacking Syria: Barack Obama decided to seek congressional approval. Such is not his usual wont. Since occupying the Oval Office, Obama has made a practice of issuing executive orders and other decrees about all manner of policy preferences without bothering to go to Congress. He attacked Libya without Congress, but now with Syria he’s seeking an accomplice – though he still insists he doesn’t need one.

Columnist George Will notes that, ironically, the British Parliament’s rejection of military action prompted Obama to go to Congress. “If Parliament had authorized an attack,” Will wrote, “Obama probably would already have attacked, without any thought about Congress’ prerogatives.”

The outcome of a looming congressional vote on military action is uncertain – the sides don’t break along party lines. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) support Obama’s call, as does Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But significant numbers of the rank-and-file aren’t convinced, despite assurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that we won’t be “going to war in a classic sense.”

The issue for many in Congress – as well as grassroots Americans – is whether a limited strike will achieve any clear policy objective that serves vital U.S. interests. Kerry warns that “we cannot allow Assad to be able to gas people with impunity.” But will a strike eradicate Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons stores now that he’s had time to move and protect them? If we weaken or remove Assad, will al-Qaida rebels come out on top? Will a limited strike sufficiently chastise Assad for crossing the “red line” Obama now ridiculously asserts he “didn’t set”? And if a strike is strong enough, what reaction can we expect from Syria, Iran or Russia?

In short, Obama has turned this into a political charade. Any principle governing our response was lost as soon as he opened his mouth.

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