President Obama has no interest in attacking Syria. His decision to suddenly ask Congress for approval is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at saving face.
On August 20th, 2012, Obama made the following statement regarding the Syrian forces in their fight against the rebels:
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is; we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation.”
One year and one day later, Assad’s forces released huge amounts of nerve gasses and sarin in a Damascus suburb. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, 1,429 Syrian civilians were killed, including 426 children.
“This is evidence,” Kerry said in an appearance at the State Department. “These are facts. The primary question is what are we … going to do about it?”
These are the president’s thoughts exactly. He had little choice but to pledge military intervention in Syria. His other option was to do nothing and become an international laughingstock. Mr. Smooth-talker had backed himself into a corner. No one was surprised when Obama made no mention of consulting with Congress, as the President is legally obligated to do before declaring a unilateral war. Since when has the president ever given two hoots about what Congress thought?
In a surprise move over the weekend, however, the President turned an about-face and surprised the world by announcing his intention to ask Congress permission to launch an aerial attack on Syria. The announcement occurred over a week following his assertion that he would mete out justice to the Syrian government.
If you think about it, however, it isn’t all that surprising at all. Obama has no interest in getting involved in Syria. His promise to invade Syria to rid it of illegal chemical weapons is eerily reminiscent of Bush’s similar claims regarding Iraq, claims which embroiled the US in a decade-long, highly unpopular war. Furthermore, there is no reason why the US should get involved with Syria any more than in another atrocity-filled region (Sudan, anyone?).
Obama is well into his second term – the last thing he wants his a messy Middle East war to taint his legacy, especially when he still has major fiscal issues to deal with back home.
To make matters worse for Obama, in an act of Democracy that Americans have become sadly unfamiliar with, England’s Prime Minister David Cameron called Parliament back from vacation to debate the benefits of supporting Obama in his Syria campaign. Cameron, who staked his reputation on his belief that the war should be a joint US/UK strike, was voted down, and he deferred to the Democratic process. All this made Obama look very bad.
It also provided him with an opportunity. He can now pretend to respect the Democratic process by going to Congress who, Obama hopes, will vote against military intervention in Syria. Obama ca then lay the Onus on Congress and attribute this characteristic cowardice to an decidedly uncharacteristic respect for the democratic process.