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Obama is far from building convincing case for war with Syria

Between Democratic loyalists and Republican hawks, it’s looking more likely today than it did last Saturday that President Obama will get the approval of Congress for military strikes on Syria.

Good thing for him, too. He’s betting the prestige of the office on it.

Republican House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor fell in line with the president this week, as have other high-profile Republicans.

Georgia’s two Republican U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, also support a strike.

It’s a good bet many otherwise dovish Democrats will back Obama, too, in order to avoid having the president be “shamed and humiliated on the national stage,” as nonvoting District of Columbia congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton put it.

It’s a little late for that, given the fact that the mere delay until Congress returns in full next week has led the country’s enemies to crow about Obama’s weakness and vacillation.

The president’s equivocation in his Saturday announcement that he’ll seek congressional approval for military action also stood in stark contrast to Secretary of State John Kerry’s impassioned rallying cry for action just a day before.

It’s interesting that some are willing to support a Syrian strike with what appears to be less evidence than was obtained against Saddam Hussein. And we all know how that turned out.

We also agree with folks such as Isakson and Chambliss that if the president was going to ask for Congress’ marching orders, he should’ve called it into session this week rather than wait until the next.

Most of that will be quickly forgotten, however, should Congress go along with him and the real shooting starts. Moreover, the delay may be changing the outcome: It’s possible Congress would’ve given the Syrian strike a thumbs-down if asked this week; the intervening days give the Obama administration the opportunity to build the case.

Building the case – with Congress, with our allies and with the American people – should’ve preceded all of this. And Mr. Obama should never have bandied about talk of Syria crossing “red lines” by using chemical weapons unless he was quietly assembling an army of supporters. He has mismanaged this crisis horribly from the get-go.

South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan speaks for many of us.

“I’m canceling my meetings tomorrow to head back to D.C. to participate in hearings on the president’s request for the use of military force in Syria,” he wrote earlier this week on his Facebook page. “I’ve yet to see how military intervention in Syria is in our national interest, nor have I heard a good argument for why we should aid the al-Qaida-backed Syrian opposition.”

But again, Congress may end up bailing out the president.

If so, we hope they are in possession of compelling information they can’t disclose to the rest of us, because on its face a strike on Syria looks like a potentially catastrophic mistake – a joining in, and an escalation of, a war in which our national interests are either nonexistent or non-negotiable. It seems no-win to us.

We don’t deny the horror of chemical weapons or the need to crack down on their use. But why should the U.S. go it alone, or nearly so – particularly when the former president was excoriated by the current one for supposed unilateralism?

And, as one California Democrat wondered aloud, have we really exhausted all possible peaceful means of upbraiding the Syrian regime?

We look forward to the president making a case for war. Right now, he’s nowhere close.

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Fri, 12/09/2016 - 11:16

Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon