Obama seems determined to punish Syria (with video) Comment on this post ↓
September 2nd, 2013 by Warren Swil

Congressional approval not

required for president to strike

Secretary of State John Kerry makes the case for a strike on Syria on Sunday. Click image to enlarge.

THE EVIDENCE MOUNTED on Sunday that despite a “procedural” delay as he awaits a vote in Congress, President Obama will strike back at Syria for its use of chemical weapons.
The New York Times was reporting early in the day about Secretary of State John Kerry’s round of the Sunday morning talk shows to “make the case” for an attack on Syria.
Meanwhile, across the pond, Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian newspaper that Obama views whatever happens in Congress as “non-binding.”
In other words, he is not constrained – whatever the outcome of the vote – from striking alone, if need be.
Time magazine, in an insightful behind-the-scenes description, relates that Obama on Friday found himself “alone” as the decision time arrived.

IN A NEWS RELASE distributed on Saturday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced that a hearing would be held Tuesday regarding the president’s request for authorization to use military force in Syria.
“U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will preside over a hearing beginning this Tuesday to debate the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria,” the release said.
“I have spoken with [Senate Majority] Leader [Harry] Reid (D-Nev.) and beginning this Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will debate the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria,” Menendez said.
“Senior Administration witnesses will testify before the Committee and the Congress will debate this issue actively, fully, and publicly.

Glenn Greenwald’s column in The Guardian on Sunday. Click image to enlarge.

“It is my view that the use of military force in Syria is justified and necessary given the Assad regime’s reprehensible use of chemical weapons and gross violation of international law. I look forward to sharing these views with my colleagues in the days ahead as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee convenes to take up this vital national security issue.”
It’s full steam ahead, it seems, as far as the Senate Democrats are concerned.
Meanwhile, early Sunday, The New York Times was ahead of the pack, reporting right after Secretary Kerry’s appearance on Fox News Sunday. In Kerry Casts Obama’s Syria Decision as ‘Courageous” Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael R. Gordon report:

“Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the administration had new evidence that sarin gas was used in a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government that killed 1,400 people last month, and he predicted that Congress would approve President Obama’s request to use force against Syria when lawmakers return from recess on Sept. 9.”

President Obama: “Alone” at decision time. Click image to enlarge.

There is no doubt about which way the wind is blowing from the White House.
“Mr. Kerry, who is planning appearances on all five Washington Sunday-morning talk shows to defend Mr. Obama’s decision to delay a strike on Syria, also sent a pointed warning to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
“If Mr. Assad were “foolish enough” to harm his people again, Mr. Kerry said, then Mr. Obama might take military action without waiting for Congress.”
This is exactly the point that, over in the U.K., Columnist Glenn Greenwald was making, albeit in another context.
Obama does not need Congressional authorization to strike at Syria.
In his Sunday column published by The Guardian, Obama, Congress and Syria
the subheadline is:
The president is celebrated for seeking a vote on his latest war even as his aides make clear it has no binding effect
 “[W]hat makes the celebratory reaction to [Saturday’s] announcement particularly odd is that the Congressional vote which Obama said he would seek appears, in his mind, to have no binding force at all,” Greenwald writes.
“There is no reason to believe that a Congressional rejection of the war’s authorization would constrain Obama in any way, other than perhaps politically. To the contrary, there is substantial evidence for the proposition that the White House sees the vote as purely advisory, i.e., meaningless.”
Greenwald knows a lot more than I do about these events, but he is certainly spot on in this analysis.

A MORE INTIMATE PEEK behind the scenes at Obama’s decision-making process is available at Time magazine.
In their story Unwilling To Act Alone, Obama Pulls Back From Brink Of War Michael Scherer and Zeke Miller tell us:

Time magazine’s weekend article that delves deeply into the president’s thought processes. Click image to enlarge.

“In the end, Barack Obama found himself alone.
“After an evening stroll with his chief of staff on Friday, Obama decided that he didn’t want to go to war alone, surprising even his closest aides by choosing to seek congressional approval for a military strike.”
Their story goes deeper than any other into the president’s thought processes in arriving at his decision.
“But Obama was aware that 150 members of Congress, the rank and file, were seeking a chance to vote. He had been affected by the British vote in Parliament, aides would later say, and he knew well the lingering effects of the 2003 invasion of Iraq had increased global skepticism of America’s military judgment.”
Indeed, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, under orders from Vice President Dick Cheney (oops, President G. W. Bush) squandered enormous amounts of U.S. credibility in his now-infamous address to the United Nations on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 20o3.
There is no reason to believe it has recovered much since then.
The Time story continues:
“Then there was the fact that [Obama] had pledged in 2007, in response to a question from the Boston Globe, to seek such authorization before starting wars in the absence of an immediate threat. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told Obama days earlier that there was no military harm done by waiting to strike Assad’s forces.”
Only those who are on the beach on this Labor Day weekend in the U.S. can be unaware of the direction of events unfolding around the world.
President Obama has never seemed so decisive, determined and forceful as he did in his address to the nation on Saturday. And he is, alas, correct.
The events in Syria cannot be allowed to stand with no response from those who have the capability to do so. The U.S. does.
It must. Even if it does so alone.

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5 Responses  
  • jkwjkw writes:
    September 2nd, 2013

    “…. United Nations on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2013.” You may want to correct the typo on the date.

    • warren writes:
      September 2nd, 2013

      Thank you, and DONE!
      Even editors need editors.
      The scariest thing about blogging … a new experience for me…is publishing WITHOUT an editor.
      For my entire professional career until this point, every word published under my name has been edited. No longer, alas.

  • Jack van Dijk writes:
    September 2nd, 2013

    After Vietnam, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, trillions of dollars thrown away and all lost, why would we start another war? When Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds, nothing was done, why now? Or was the attack on Granada a stellar example?

    • warren writes:
      September 2nd, 2013

      That is a really good question, Jack.
      It doesn’t have an easy answer.
      But what I think I hear the administration saying is: “Because we can! and Because we should!”
      Rwanda? We should have, but didn’t!
      Iraq? We should have NOT, but did!
      Kurds? We should have, but didn’t.
      The universe works in mysterious ways.

      • Jack van Dijk writes:
        September 2nd, 2013

        American exceptionalism never was, it only resulted in irritating other countries. Yes, we were happy that using all the materiel, WWII was resolved, but it only happened after Churchill convinced Roosevelt that Hitler was truly evil. Well, Staling was close to evil too, but kept it to its own population and we stayed out. Let the USA resolve its own internal problems, the list is too long to mention.

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