Saturday, August 31, 2013

President Obama Calls The GOP's Bluff On Syria

Republicans were all set to have the best of both worlds:  still getting a bloody-minded attack on Syria, and having 100% of the fallout be on President Obama's shoulders, while claiming everything up to and including an "impeachable offense" by his attacking Syria without the approval of Congress.

So this afternoon, President Obama called their bluff and said he will do what the American people and Congress want:  debate and vote on the measure on Capitol Hill.

In an afternoon appearance in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said he had decided that the United States should use force but would wait for a vote from lawmakers, who are not due to return to town until Sept. 9. Mr. Obama said he believed he had the authority to act on his own, but he did not say whether he would if Congress rejects his plan

“I’m prepared to give that order,” Mr. Obama said. “But having made my decision as commander in chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interest, I’m also mindful that I’m president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” 

Going to war with the support of the people’s representatives, he added, “I know the country will be stronger.” 

The president’s announcement effectively dared Congress to either stand by him or, as he put it, allow President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to get away with murdering children. By asking lawmakers to weigh in, he is trying to break out of his box of isolation of the last week, in the face of deep skepticism at home and around the world about the strike. His decision indicates he does not want to go forward without Congress and the American public. 

So now  this becomes Congress's problem, more specifically the GOP's problem.  They will have to go on record on Syria and bear responsibility for its future, which is exactly what they were attempting to avoid.

President Obama has outsmarted them yet again...and he's listening to the American people, who want debate before any military action.  Now he looks like the reasonable grown-up in the room.

Your move, Republicans.

London Calling (Out Obama)

The inestimable Juan Cole handily sums up yesterday's UK House of Commons disaster as MPs voted down PM David Cameron's preliminary plan to use military force against Syria, and what it means for President Obama, the United States, Syria, and force as a tool.

The British members of parliament who debated whether to take action against Syria were obviously haunted by the mistakes of the Iraq War and determined not to repeat them.

The case of Obama and Cameron against the Syrian government has some holes, but it isn’t a bad case. But it involves murky allegations of weapons of mass destruction use by an Arab regime, and a unilateral Anglo-American shock and awe aerial attack. It looks way too much like Iraq, and there is no telling where it might lead. Britain is not very far from Syria and the repercussions of an attack could be significant. Britain also has a significant Muslim minority population that is die hard set against an attack on Syria.

The vote puts President Obama between a rock and a hard place. The formerly solid Anglo-American solidarity has been broken. Obama does not have the Arab League and he does not have the UN Security Council. He does not even have a consensus on the European continent.

Obama should pivot now and choose vigorous diplomacy over a military strike. The latter will now have no legitimacy in international law, and would not be supported even by the British parliament

The duplicity of Bush and Blair has deeply injured faith in government, even on the part of members of government. Their use of the high-flown rhetoric of protecting helpless populations from tyrants and deflecting dire threats of WMD cheapened those endeavors and trivialized them They bent the sword of state and rendered it useless in any similar situation.

In a very real sense, the blown vote in the UK is the perfect excuse for the United States to reconsider action in Syria.  And yes, Bush and Blair made it now very difficult for future Presidents to deliver more than token military assistance, such as in Libya.  Here's hoping that President Obama considers the opportunity here to bring both sides to the table and end this war.
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