Just because he seems hellbent on going down as the president I most piss and moan about when I’m 80 and on my deathbed; Barack Obama interrupted opening day of the College Football season Saturday afternoon to announce that he intends to take military action against Syria’s Assad regime… well, kind of. After defiantly challenging the typically enigmatic “international community” to join him publicly in rebuking actions taken by the Syrian military, President Obama casually proclaimed that the US military was on the ready and is fully capable of carrying out an attack now; in the next few days; or weeks; or even months.
“It could be effective tomorrow, or next week or one month from now,”
And then in an unexpected turn, the president said he would ask for Congressional approval. You know those two little Houses of Congress that hate each other even more than most of their members hate him? He’s going to ask them for approval… when they return from break in about a week. No biggie.
“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective.”
“I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I am asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”
That, of course, leaves open the question – what if he doesn’t get said approval? What if Congress says no way, no how?
The president immediately left the podium after delivering his remarks avoiding the only audible question served up by media members in attendance – “Will you strike even without Congressional approval?”
Will he get approval?
Addressing the latter, my gut says no. Even right-wing hawks are reluctant to pick sides in this budding clusterfark. Who are the rebels? How do we really know who was responsible for the chemical attack? What is the end result? Regime change? Democracy? Nation building? Securing a Qatari oil pipeline?
On the home front, where’s his alliance going to come from? The Left? Democrats that called similar actions taken by the Bush administration “criminal?” A fiscally conservative House that is likely to see a bombing campaign as a foot in the door toward another decade of nation building? Republican leadership that would hardly lose sleep over a president with mud on his face for twice backing away from his own “red line(s)?”
So back to the question of “Will he?” I’m leaning no. Recent polls show Americans are relatively split – leaning toward opposed – on military intervention. But the numbers rise to nearly 90% in opposition when respondents are asked about intervention without congressional approval. That means the president will expend a great deal of political capital if he chooses to go this one alone.
I’m inclined to believe he’s going to use Congress as the scapegoat. Ask and let them say no. Then the “blood” will be on their hands. And we all know that will ultimately mean Republican hands.
If he didn’t interrupt my Buckeye football opener, I think I’d say well played Mr. President, well played. But because he thought he’d sneak this one in under the radar whilst millions of Americans were priming the grill for tailgating; I can’t help but sense a hint of cowardice. He’s softening; perhaps, so he can begin his retreat even before a shot is ever fired.
While I ultimately agree with sidestepping another protracted campaign in that friggin region, if the president would have given this address weeks ago; he may have found some support from me and many of my conservative brethren on the Right. That said, the time for tough talk and not-so-subtle threats is over. That ship sailed as the Assad regime doubled down and the “rebels” became riddle with and run – at least in part – by people and entities hostile to the United States. At this point, intervention means nothing more than “punishing” the Assad regime. American lives and American international political capital and clout are worth far more than that self-serving objective.