The issue that shall define Obama’s presidency, I told my radio audience a day or two after he won in ’08, will be foreign policy, whether he wants it to be or not.
And so it is, with Obama’s decision to enter Syria’s civil war. For the first time in the history of my analyzing the news, I confess to being befuzzled on this one. Last Friday, John Kerry made the case for a time sensitive “surgical strike.” The following morning, the President announced that he was, after all, going to seek Congressional approval, which meant, in the case of the House of Representatives, waiting nine or ten days.
Then John McCain and Lindsey Graham jumped aboard the trolley of bad ideas, meeting with the President, and giving a post-meeting press conference in which they strongly made the case for war.
There was something curious about their tone, as there has been with every member of Congress who supports our going to war with Syria: They were rather outwardly disdainful of the President. He had waited too long to take action; he has done an insufficient job of selling Syria to the Public. Nevertheless, Syria is important, and its importance is larger than the President.
And then something even more fascinating happened! In making the case that limited action is necessary before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry took essentially the same position—that his boss was inept, and that in considering war, Congress should essentially overlook how weak the President might look.
It strikes me that such insubordination wouldn’t be tolerated randomly; it’s bound to have been sanctioned. The President is willing to appear weak, if it means putting the onus on whether or not to strike Syria on Congress. He did, after all, say that he had the authority to strike without Congress’ go ahead, but he feels that (and I paraphrase) America will be more united if Congress says yes. In other words, he is taking his case to the people, and the message is, call your congressman or woman, and urge them to vote for a war with Syria.
The salient question is, what if Congress isn’t unanimous in its support of the war? Does the President act?
It’s an academic question, because it strikes me as likely that both Houses of Congress will support the President’s use of force. My guess is, the sense is that the President, despite having unilaterally drawn a line in the sand, would give an impassioned speech about how Congress prevented us from doing “the right thing” in Syria, should it not pass both Houses.
In other words, America’s credibility is on the line here. The President has clearly said he has the authority to attack Syria without the blessing of Congress. But in all likelihood, if they vote no, he will balk. And America will look ever weaker.
It’s remarkable that a President, can singlehandedly put the credibility of our country on the line. But this President is in the process of doing it.
Which is why, in all likelihood, some members of Congress will vote to authorize the use of force. These members will be voting, not because they believe in the cause, but because they believe in their country, and they don’t want President Obama projecting American weakness. It will, indeed, be a tough for them.
By: Will Anderson