President Obama surprised people late last week by almost kinda pretending to make his behavior consistent with his rhetoric by asking for congressional approval before he bombs Syria. The man who once said the president could not take military action without congressional approval except in an immediate and necessary response to an imminent threat — which Syria clearly does not pose — and then ignored that principle in Libya, wants Congress to give him the go-ahead. But not getting it won’t stop him from doing what he wants to do:
Delaying what had loomed as an imminent strike, President Barack Obama abruptly announced Saturday he will seek congressional approval before launching any military action meant to punish Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds.
With Navy ships on standby in the Mediterranean Sea ready to launch their cruise missiles, Obama said he had decided the United States should take military action and that he believes that as commander in chief, he has “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.”
At the same time, he said, “I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective.” His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation.
And then administration officials quickly made sure the press knew that he might well bomb Syria even if Congress says no. Which means this is a dog-and-pony show strictly for public consumption. Can we have the Obama who ran for president back? I liked him a lot better.
But as I’ve said before, what I’d like to hear is a coherent argument for A) what our objective would be and B) how a bombing campaign would achieve it. I can envision one possibility. If we could confirm that it was the Assad government that used the chemical weapons and we had the intelligence that would allow us to target the installations where those weapons are produced and/or stored, or the military units in charge of carrying out such an attack, then a bombing campaign that degraded their ability to carry out further chemical attacks might be both justified and achievable. But I have yet to hear anything remotely like that.
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