The "handling" of Syria by the incompetent boobs running our government shows, once again, how liberals do not understand a basic fact of international life: the word of the US president on foreign affairs must be akin to an IOU note backed by gold coin. The president should issue such a note sparingly and only when sure he has that coin. For reasons known only to Obama and whomever he has as foreign affairs advisors--and that remains murky--this misadministration decided to say, I repeat to say, a couple of years ago that any use by the murdering Assad regime of chemical weapons was unacceptable and a threat to the United States.
Some time back I noted that,
If you want a clue on dealing with Arab states, don't look to the State Department or the NSC--especially under Susan "It's YouTube's fault" Rice. Look to the Israelis. For them it is literally a matter of life or death who runs the corrupt Arab regimes in the neighborhood. The Israelis detest the Assad regime and have fought a continuous war with it since 1970. They also detested Arafat, and any number of other Arab dictators. They, however, were and are very cautious about promoting regime change. Despite numerous opportunities, for example, they never killed Arafat; they dropped people all around him, but never him. Who would replace him? Nobody knew, so better stick with the disgusting but inept known devil than risk getting someone or something much worse. The Israeli military and intel services, likewise, repeatedly have demonstrated an ability to strike deep into Syria and successfully take out major targets. They, however, have not targeted Assad, father or son. The assumption being that the Assad clan knows where to draw the line and not cross it for fear of engendering a regime-killing Israeli response.It is not clear, as I have noted, why the deaths of 1400 Syrians by gas are more threatening to the US than the deaths of 100,000 Syrians by more conventional weapons, and continue to note the uneasy silence from the Israelis. All that, however, now is one giant "never-mind." The President of the United States has said chemical weapon use by Assad would pose a threat to core US interests. Our rodeo-clown SecState, furthermore, has stated that Assad, indeed, has used these weapons and, he said, that requires an immediate response by the United States, with or without the UN or our traditional allies. The British, of course, have said "No, thanks," and the French are looking for a way out of their initial support for Obama.
The President and the SecState have said Obama has the authority to strike Syria with or without Congressional approval--the kind that Bush got, but liberals seem to have forgotten. The Pentagon has moved ships into position, and more are on the way. The hammer has been cocked and . . . eased back down. In a rambling, disjointed follow up statement, Obama has said that, well, after all, he wants Congressional approval to engage in a limited warning strike of brief duration that will involve no major US military presence with the objective of . . . we don't know. He also undermined John "Xmas in Cambodia" Kerry by saying that, well, there is no hurry, and that we can strike whenever we want, now, tomorrow, in a week, in a couple of months, it's all good, dude . . . time for some golf with the ever-grinning Joe "The Plugs Don't Hurt Anymore" Biden.
My recommendation, for what little value it has, is for Congress to vote "NO," unless the misadministration comes up with a real, solid thought-through proposal with goals and an exit plan. President Obama built this bizarre structure, he should get full credit for it. He should be told, you didn't want us in on the take-off, don't call us in on the crash landing. This is a tough thing for me to recommend. I have spent some 34 years in the Foreign Service, and have seen up close what happens when the President of the United States has no credibility. A "NO" vote by Congress could embolden Assad, but then it is not clear that a "YES" vote would deter him; it might embolden him even more when the smoke clears after the limited, brief, minimal pain attack and he still stands. A "YES" vote would make Congress, and the Republicans, complicit in an extremely foolish and poorly designed policy with some potentially very nasty fall-out.
As stated at the outset, every action has a negative consequence. Having the President humiliated by Congress is not a good thing on the international scene, no matter how much he deserves it. This President, however, has said that he has the authority to act and that the situation in Syria is worthy of exercising that authority. If he really believes that, and is willing to "man up" and accept the consequences of his policy, then he should go ahead and strike Syria. He should deal with the consequences of whacking a hornet's nest with a very small bat. Let Obama prove his mettle as a leader.
Whatever happens, we will have to hunker down and try to ride out the next three years of incompetence and the consequences such incompetence brings.
I repeat, let him own it. He built it.
UPDATE: For a different view see Legal Insurrection's thoughtful post on this matter