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Ed Driscoll

About Face! Obama Seeks Congressional Approval to Strike Syria

August 31st, 2013 - 2:00 pm

“President Obama surprised me today by announcing that he is asking Congress to authorize an attack on Syria,” Paul Mirengoff writes at Power Line. “Going to Congress on this matter is the right thing to do, even if one believes — as Obama says he does — that he has the power to strike without congressional approval:”

By going to Congress, Obama pushes back the time table for a strike. He claimed, however, that the military advised him that an attack on Syria is not “time sensitive.”

This depends, I suppose, on the nature of the attack. If Obama simply wants to lob a few cruise missiles at Syria for no real purpose other than “doing something,” he can take such action at any time. But if wants, as he should, to degrade Syria’s military capacity and/or its command structure, then time probably matters. By waiting, Obama enhances the ability of the Assad regime to protect itself and its assets.

Maybe our military believes that Obama has already waited too long, and that the regime already has taken precautionary measures.

The left has convinced itself that the militaristic adventures they approve wholeheartedly of in 2013 are nothing at all like the militaristic adventures they were protesting in maximum stompy-foot mode in 2003. (After approving them wholeheartedly in 1998.)  Give war a chance, Andrea Mitchell sagely advised her viewer yesterday on low-rated MSNBC, because Obama will be lobbing cruise missiles at Syria “from a very cautious anti-war perspective.”

Beyond simply getting The Return of the Son of the Recovery Summer that Ate the American Economy off the front page, of course, this will accomplish…what, exactly? As Victor Davis Hanson asked yesterday, what are our objectives in Syria, anyhow?

If our attitude is that Obama screwed up, but that now the least-screwed-up remedy is to attack Syria, then we are indeed in bad shape.

Of the bad and worse alternatives, the worse is attacking without specifying our aims, means, and desired results. Yet to do so would convince Obama to drop the idea.

If the objective is to weaken Assad without empowering al-Qaeda-like Islamists, then non-intervention serves that goal far better.

If the objective is to destroy WMD depots, and send a global lesson that they are taboo, where are they and how are we to take them out? And what of the irony that Assad is probably no worse a custodian of WMD than is the opposition that we would de facto aiding?

If the point is to save face after the empty rhetorical redlines, then at this late date a few hours of cruise missiles will be interpreted by those who count — Russia, Iran, China, North Korea — as a half-serious and pathetic attempt to restore credibility.

A decade on, Mark Steyn compares and contrasts the differences between 2003 and 2013:

I see the Obama “reset” is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against. The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax. The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take. In the unimprovable formulation of an unnamed official speaking to the Los Angeles Times, the White House is carefully calibrating a military action “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”

That would make a great caption for a Vanity Fair photo shoot of Obama gamboling in the surf at Martha’s Vineyard, but as a military strategy it’s not exactly Alexander the Great or the Duke of Wellington.

In a post at Commentary titled, “Obama’s Bizarre Syria Policy,” John Podhoretz adds, “Some people compare foreign policy to a game of chess. Barack Obama is playing 52 pick-up.”

On this, J-Pod couldn’t be more wrong:

President Obama and Vice-President Biden held a rare press event Saturday in the Rose Garden to address the escalating tensions with Syria. President Obama said he was convinced Syrian President Bashir Assad had ordered a chemical weapon attack on his citizens and that the US, and the world community, must act in response. Obama called on Congress to authorize a military attack against Syria. A new foreign policy crisis now faces the US. After the press event, Obama and Biden went golfing.

Come back Dubya, all is forgiven.

Update: ‘He Called Us Around Noon.’

Related: “Here’s a counterfactual,” tweets James Taranto. “If President McCain were seeking authorization to use force against Syria, how would Sen. Obama vote?”

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After years of pacifism, disengagement, and leading from behind, Obama has crafted or stumbled upon a clever and effective approach to foreign policy. The essence of a perfect foreign policy is to make credible threats without having to expend valuable men, munitions, and budget resources. Foreign despots have laughed at Obama until now, knowing that Obama has budget constraints and an anti-war political base.

Now, Obama has put his narcissist ego on the line with his comments about Syria. This is causing real fear in those despots. They understand narcissism and erratic, political actions. Obama is now itching to lay some bombs on Syria. The Syrian military is clearing out its bases, hiding its munitions, and sending officers to other locations. They can no longer depend on military action to be directed in a rational manner. Ego is at stake. Retribution can arrive at any time, for any reason, without careful calculation of military effectiveness.

Think of Tony Soprano. Psychoanalysis in one scene, random killing in the next, powered by a better than average mind within his group. This is a true projection of power into the world.

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