For a President who had garnered the sobriquet "No Drama Obama," Saturday's 30-minute delayed proclamation that he, the President, had concluded that military action is required...BUT that congressional approval should be sought, has got to be one of the most spectacular developments in the history of American foreign policy. In a Friday evening saunter on the White House grounds, the conflicted Commander-in-Chief came to a realization. He decided to turn to Congress, "a step that none of the four congressional leaders had asked for and none of his national security advisers had recommended" (Bloomberg News).
I understand the dilemma. There are no good options when it comes to Syria. The Onion said it best in an op-ed piece published this week in the name of Bashar al-Assad entitled "So, What's It Going to Be?":
Well, here we are. It’s been two years of fighting, over 100,000 people are dead, there are no signs of this war ending, and a week ago I used chemical weapons on my own people. If you don’t do anything about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. If you do something about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. Morally speaking, you’re on the hook for those deaths no matter how you look at it.
So, it’s your move, America. What’s it going to be?
I’ve looked at your options, and I’m going to be honest here, I feel for you. Not exactly an embarrassment of riches you’ve got to choose from, strategy-wise. I mean, my God, there are just so many variables to consider, so many possible paths to choose, each fraught with incredible peril, and each leading back to the very real, very likely possibility that no matter what you do it’s going to backfire in a big, big way. It’s a good old-fashioned mess, is what this is! And now, you have to make some sort of decision that you can live with...
So, all in all, quite the pickle you’re in, isn’t it? I have to say, I do not envy you here. Really curious to see where you go with this one.
But then we must confront the strange twists and turns of the week after the chemical attack in Ghouta. Destroyers rush to the eastern Mediterranean. David Cameron gets flummoxed by Ed Miliband, even as The Economist screamed "Hit Him Hard." It all ends with Obama turning to 535 preening assholes, 535 armchair Secretaries of State and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs. Let the Sunday morning talk shows begin!
Obama, forever the ponderous academic and junior Senator from Illinois, has decided that Syria is a teachable moment. It's the kind of decision a bad college president would make.
Oh sure, the opponents of American military action, and advocates of a less imperial presidency, are altogether elated with this road to Damascus conversion of St. Barack. In one fell swoop, he has reversed a trajectory that began in the Gulf of Tonkin and has led to one misadventure after another. I can understand the tempting, seemingly smart prospect of getting an unwilling Congress and American public opinion to have it all aired out.
Advocates of a military response to the horrific carnage of Syria are now themselves horrified. They claim that Obama has weakened America's reputation throughout the world.
I don't care what jihadis will think. I don't care what Bashar al-Assad will conclude. I don't care if Bibi Netanyahu is now beside himself with anxiety. But think for a moment about what Vladimir Putin and Li Keqiang might conclude about their global counterpart. It can't be anything good.
Now we have President Spock, a man so taken by his own native intelligence and sophistication that he imagines himself the President who will bring a warring Congress and a distracted nation along his Vulcan path of kolinahr.