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August 29th, 2013 - 3:40 pm

It’s over for President Obama’s plan to launch a “limited but decisive” strike on Syria. The Washington Post reports, “Prime Minister David Cameron lost a preliminary vote in Parliament late Thursday on intervention in Syria. … The British parliamentary vote marked a stunning defeat for Cameron’s government.”

The Wall Street Journal explains, “Thursday evening’s vote was nonbinding, but in practice the rejection of military strikes means Mr. Cameron’s hands are tied. In a terse statement to Parliament, Mr. Cameron said it was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military action.”

This followed the rejection in the UN Security Council of a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria; there is no hope that it will ever be passed. “After the council fell short of reaching an agreement, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington that the U.S. sees ‘no avenue forward’ given Russia’s past opposition to action by the council on Syria.”

The Obama administration was prepared to go forward without NATO approval either, a sign that it believed support in those quarters was scant as well. Defense One reported that “with its military ready to attack Syria on President Obama’s command, the United States is no longer pursuing a United Nations or NATO stamp of approval to respond with force to the purported deployment of chemical weapons.”

Neither has Obama secured the consent of Congress for his planned operation. Speaker John Boehner wrote to the president, saying: “I have conferred with the chairmen of the national security committees who have received initial outreach from senior Administration officials, and while the outreach has been appreciated, it is apparent from the questions above that the outreach has, to date, not reached the level of substantive consultation.” Boehner wrote:

I respectfully request that you, as our country’s commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy. In addition, it is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.

Jack Goldsmith, the Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School, examines the legal authority under which presidents can order a military action without the authorization of Congress. He noted that the previous presidents invoked treaty obligations and national interest considerations notably absent in this case.

What is the important national interest in intervening in Syria? No U.S. persons or property are at stake. That fact alone distinguishes most executive branch precedents. In the Libya opinion, OLC argued that the “credibility and effectiveness” of a Security Council Resolution gives rise to an important national security interest. This is a stretch considered by itself – but in any event, there is no Security Council resolution for Syria. Nor can OLC even invoke the “credibility and effectiveness” of a regional organization in which the USG participates (such as NATO, in Kosovo) as giving rise to an important interest that would justify the President’s use of military force. That leaves the weakest of all interests: preservation of “regional stability” and maintenance of “peace and stability.” These interests will of course always be present when the President is considering intervention, and thus by themselves are no limit on presidential power at all. Such interests were invoked in Libya and in earlier OLC opinions, but they were always invoked in connection with other factors (such as the consent of the nation in question) or other interests (such as the protection of U.S. persons or property, or the preservation of the U.N. Charter or a regional security treaty commitment), and never as sufficient by themselves.

Now, with Britain out of the operation, Obama faces the prospect of going into Syria almost literally alone, without the UN, NATO, Congress, or even the UK to back him up. Two courses are now open to him. He can climb down as best he can and pretend he’s changed his mind or he can go forward risking a wider war for nothing. As Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker said in a satirical piece, Obama has tried to mollify the antiwar left by promising the Syria strike “would have no objective.” It would just be a couple of days worth of random drive-by shooting without strategic content and therefore moral.

Yet a climbdown would represent a public and devastating humiliation of the man who once believe he bestrode the world. It would also represent a huge propaganda victory for Assad.

The alternative would be for Obama to double down and order an attack on his own authority despite having, as Professor Goldsmith noted, no apparent legal leg to stand on. He would risk starting a wider war that he doesn’t even want to win, and possibly illegally to boot.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
That is not something any professional military officer should have to answer. The political system will have failed utterly if it cannot provide the military forces with clear and legitimate guidance. An administration leaves those questions to be decided by a military officer in the field or in doubt has collapsed.

It would be intolerable. How could deterrence function? Do you mean to say the B2 bomber pilot should decide for himself whether he should obey an order or not? If things come to that pass the problem is bad indeed.

I think Washington owes it to the public, owes it to the military to get its act together. That is what civilian control is for. I think the President and Congress should get together and speak with one voice. Whatever that voice is becomes the legal order. Attack or not attack is less important than preserving the legitimacy of the system.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama's penchant for the routine use of extra-constitutional authority and out-and-out lies has boxed him in on Syria. He hasn't a leg to stand on, i.e. no credibility, because he never invested any time, energy, or credibility building coalitions. He has no useful relationship with Congress. He has snubbed all of America's closest allies at one point or another. He is a laughing stock in the Middle East.

Obama cannot lead, and no one will follow him. At least the Bush Presidencies, Clinton, Reagan, and even Carter could build international support for a foreign policy and military initiative. (I'm being generous on Carter.).

It really is amazing how ineffective Obama, and the Clinton/Kerry state department's have been foreign policy and national security - probably in historic terms, the worst.

O.S.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We will all now be regaled with something approaching light speed.

That being the rate at which all the alphabet networks and NPR and PBS go to a mode where the name of the country "Syria" is not mentioned again until after the 2014 midterm elections.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (168)
All Comments   (168)
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WRT Ship captains and squadran commnaders following launch orders. Those guys are O-5s. Battle group commanders are O-7s. The orders will originate at Joint Chiefs via CinC Eur to CinCUS Nav Eur, all four star guys.

This gives the O-5 thru 7s some cover, but not much. The Hague may jump into the discussion.

If the military wants to weigh in a CINC will have to 1. resign and 2. Five minutes later hold a press conference.

The last (and iirc, only) flag officer revolt was by the post wwII carrier admirals refusing to surrender all to the new Air Force. It was a big deal at the time...
Now, which 4 sar has the nads? No one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I predict that Barack Hussein Obama will attack and John Boehner will do nothing to stop him or impeach him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A couple of bombs will explode in Syria, to no effect; the bomb of Obamacare hitting the homeland will detonate in October.

Yes, it's the beginning of his end. My relief is measured: this is going to hurt the country too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The red line is bleeding pink. I think a John Lennon song is called for. Who left the cake out in the rain?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" He would risk starting a wider war that he doesn’t even want to win,"

Amnyone else think that this is the intent ?

The Left has been trying to bring America down for decades and Obama's Presidency is the culmination of this. And I can't think of a better way to accomplish it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All the rest of the negative "unintended consequences" of his previous policies have turned out to be not quite as "unintentional" as his spineless Republican opponents have claimed they were.

So, why not this ? He's certainly proved to have the "audacity of hope", not to mention the mendacity to do something of this nature.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem is not what is going on in Syria. The problem is that we know that this will be a massive screw-up, no matter what Obama does. Not because of the situation, but because of Obama. We have no faith that it will turn out alright, because everything he touches turns to cr@p.

That is also true of most of our politicians. If it were McCain, would you have any more confidence. Maybe a little, but not enough. Romney? No, not really. His performance in government has been very poor.

So, who would give us the confidence that would allow us to consider our options with some confidence? Rubio? No. Nor any of the other low-experience possible Repub contenders. Certainly not Hillary, either.

Let's lookat some maybes. Jindal? He has no foreign or military experience, but he has demonstrated competence in whatever he has done. Christie? Not much track record. Scott Walker? See Christie. How about Palin? Hmm, maybe. She does a lot of things right, and could at least schmooze with Congress and get some consensus with them and with our allies.

We simply lack the quality people to handle this situation. The Republican bench is deep, but they are not yet veteran starters.

Well, Gingrich would be okay in this situation, probably, if his people were not busy mutinying. Yeah, if Gingrich were President, we could have some confidence in a positive outcome.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Oboutme has the perfect out. He just needs to have a Rose Garden press conference surrounded by extended family members of the gassed Syrian children and maybe a few poster-sized photos of the gassed children and make a statement just like the one he made after he lost the gun control vote. How better to convince the world yet again that he "cares" more than all other human beings.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It continues to look like Obama is setting himself up for a fall. If his vanity won't let him walk away and he indulges in some random drive-by missile firings ask yourself what will happen next?

Won't Assad take a U.S. attack as a license to retaliate against some vulnerable U.S. Institution or asset in the Middle East? There must be other Benghazis waiting to happen. There must be some vulnerable U.S. shipping within reach of a Syrian attack.

If Assad retaliiates after an Obamattack, what will Obama do then? More reading aloud in public from his teleprompters won't do the trick.

The overweening ego may just have toppled itself into a manure pond.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You mean Obama isn't the most intelligent person to ever hold the Presidency? Doesn't Obama believe he can do any job better than the people who hold those jobs?

Actually, if you appoint poor people, you will get poor advice.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And by electing Obama(spit!),America appointed,not poor,but utterly wretched people.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
John Kerry's speech just now confirms the upcoming strike --the speech included every known word in the English Language that describes the worst possible atrocity committed on the least guilty helpless child.

Kerry has become quite the humanitarian since his campaign for president, during which he denied there was any bloodbath in post-American armed forces South Vietnam. For Kerry, having done so much to help Uncle Ho get hold of the South Vietnamese people, this 'blame-avoidance' claim is such an insult to the deceased boat people and their loved ones that only someone nearly totally bereft of empathy could possibly stand there in the full light of day and say it. But just search 'john kerry said there was no bloodbath in vietnam' and read a few of the results. No i do not advocate childicide, whether in Damascus or the thousand clinics across the USA --it's just that the speech just now was of a level of lugubrious hypocrisy that to me it sounded something like blasphemy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some people are worried that if we do not act in Syria, America, after all Obama's posturing and threats, will lose face and won't be taken seriously.

I have a feeling no respectable country takes us seriously when they look at the man we have for a Secretary of State. Who's next in line? Fonda?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was in the post office when his 'speech' came on their propaganda box and it was all I could do to not suck my teeth and cuss.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was able to get to the radio and turn it off within a few lies, I mean, seconds. How can a man fit three distinct lies into a single sentence? That's talent.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He's a regular prodigy ain't he?

http://youtu.be/wmin5WkOuPw
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If Obama attacks Syria without Congressional support or any legal justification and it goes badly, maybe this would be taken as grounds for impeachment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Even if it goes well, it is still a violation of the US Constitution and the War Powers Act. As such, it would be yet another reason to impeach him, besides the half-dozen other crimes and lawless acts he's done by executive fiat.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And all you need is the votes in the Senate to convict him.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Before that, you need the votes of the so-called "leadership" of the Institutional Republicans to allow it to come to the floor of the House. Not going to happen, even if Obama openly declares himself God/King.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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