The Real Point of President Obama Going to Congress on Syria– Long Term

President Obama has used the Syria gas attack to accomplish something stunning: He’s deliberately turned back the clock on presidential military intervention prerogatives to the World War Two paradigm. Whatever happens in Congress now the president has made it much harder for future presidents to pull a George W. Bush stunt and take America into dumb wars.

From now on there’s a twenty first century template that will be applied by the nation when we talk war: ask Congress for permission to throw America’s military might around.

President Obama has just struck a blow for peace. The left and right are so tied up in knots trying to parse the present politics of the situation that they forget that this president thinks long term.

President Obama has again proved that he will leave his opponents in the dust. By using the Syria crisis as a teaching moment on constitutional prerogatives the president has extended his reach far into the future. He may have paid lip service to reserving his right to use the military with or without Congresses approval but in fact he’s done the unthinkable: the president has just seriously and voluntarily curtailed presidential war making power–for a long time to come.

More than gay rights, more than reform of the medical delivery system, more than attempts to regulate Wall Street, more than ending two bad wars, this surprising action by President Obama will mark his presidency. His action is the beginning of the end for the imperial presidency that Kennedy, Nixon and everyone since has inexorably exploited and expanded. Gone are the days when it’s assumed that presidents don’t even have to pretend to listen to Congress and the American people on using American force.

Speaking as the father of a US Marine that was deployed in Bush’s miserable unjustified wars of choice, I can’t thank President Obama enough for trying to restore a little constitutional balance to America’s addiction to easy wars that others pay for. Since the sons and daughters of the ruling class rarely contribute skin in the nasty “game” of war, since most Americans go shopping rather to war, this Marine’s father is glad that it just got harder to send young men and women in uniform to their deaths.

By President Obama shocking the chattering classes with something utterly unexpected he’s insulted them. Expect cynical blow back. The talkers and pundits like to think they always see into the future, know more than the president and can outsmart him. They have been proved wrong again and again, on the economy – its back – on health care – it is working and on “Obamacare” – it will outlast the crazies in the Republican Party, and now on this stunning action. They will say he’s weak, vacillating, trying to blame Congress and so forth.

Wrong.

What this president’s critics don’t get – ever – is that President Obama thinks long range. That’s why he’s remained silent in the face of incessant racist-based Tea Party attacks. He knows he’s winning the future by not playing to their angry-black-man stereotype. That is why he’s never been the in-your-face lefty the left craves. He’s playing for keeps, not short term visceral satisfaction.

The pundits mostly are trying to figure out the president’s tactics short term on the “next war” or “what this means politically.” But Syria isn’t the point. Politics isn’t either. Our Constitution is. What they don’t get is that irrespective of the outcome now in this case, President Obama has injected an old/new note of constitutional restraint into the American war making game that is revolutionary for our times.

It’s a very big story that the media seems to be missing by concentrating on the short term situation, Syria, and politics. The real story here isn’t Syria–it is presidential power. President Obama just put our country’s good ahead of his power and handed a little of presidential power back to We The People. Thank you Mr. President.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His new book AND GOD SAID, “BILLY!’ will be published soon.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Daniel Hutchinson

    interesting, as a world citizen, to note that this insightful analysis of the broader politics concerned has yet drawn not a single whimper of commentary. wonder why?

  • Steven W.

    You could be right, Frank. But what if congress doesn’t approve of a strike and the president goes ahead with one anyway? (As you noted, he has claimed he has the authority to do so.) In that case, his nod to Congress would be seen as an empty token gesture and certainly not a return to stricter Constitutional standards for governing. We’ll only know for sure if Congress says “no” and the president has to decide what to do then. That is the scenario that would reveal to us his real Constitutional convictions.

  • TS_1

    The President is suggesting that the congress do their job – the job they were elected to do – not the job of raising money or talking hate and stupid – and a large percentage are showing that they are not able to debate coherently on any topic.


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