President Obama has asked Congress not to throw him in the brier patch. Destructive as the Syria charade is to America’s global standing, it is a shrewd political maneuver with an asymmetrical risk-return for the president. If Congress backs him, it shares the blame for nasty consequences and takes Obama off the hook. If Congress vetoes the strike, Obama can shrug his shoulders and bow to the will of the people — which appears to be set against another foreign military adventure. Obama then has an ironclad pretext to sit on his hands while Iran finishes building nuclear weapons. If the American people don’t want a strike against Syria, all the less so will they want a strike against Iran. That presumably explains why Israel supports the strike, even though the inevitable blowback would hurt Israel more than anyone else.
The correct response to Obama’s cynical gambit is not to throw him in the brier patch by voting down the Syria resolution. Instead, Republicans should amend the resolution to authorize the use of force against Iran as well as Syria. Since Obama is inclined to ask Congress’ permission, Congress should pre-authorize a military strike against the dog’s master as well as the dog. The road to Damascus runs through Tehran, as Michael Ledeen emphasizes. It doesn’t matter whether such a resolution might pass or not: it would put the White House in excruciating embarrassment. The resolution need not require the administration to attack Iran, merely to authorize a strike. If the White House rejects the resolution, its credibility is shattered; if it accepts the resolution, the time-wasting diplomatic games with Tehran come to an end.
It’s time to play dirty and change the rules of the game.