President Obama's Syrian "red line" has put the United States into quite the sticky situation. With confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the U.S. Government is committed to a path of war, in spite of the fact that it seems no one, on either side of the political aisle, has much stomach for yet another war in the Middle East.
Back And Forth
One of the more confusing aspects of President Obama's commitment to action in Syria is his on-again, off-again sense of urgency on the matter. Secretary of State John Kerry stated in no uncertain terms that the U.S. is committed, yet the administration suddenly decided to hold back, waiting nine days for Congress to reconvene so that they can debate and hold a vote on whether to authorize the use of military force in Syria. This is where the administration's position gets a bit confusing; after the long, protracted debate over Operation Iraqi Freedom, most Americans know that Congress declares war, not the President. President Obama could, of course, make the argument that he doesn't need Congress's go-ahead to deploy forces and drop bombs in Syria - and one of the more confusing elements in this case is that Secretary Kerry and others in the administration continue to state that President Obama does not need Congressional authorization to move on Syria...so why wait?
Then throw this into the mix: not long after declaring an emergency in Syria and seemingly making preparations for war, the President Of the United States suddenly blinked...and then decided it was time for a round of golf. Not quite the right message to be sending in a time of crisis, but with Congress on recess, whatcha gonna do? Call them back into session? Not with 18 holes on the line.
No Right Answer
The biggest problem for the Obama administration in Syria is that there are no good guys to ally ourselves with.
There's the Assad regime - little question that they're evil, having violently put down protests, instigated a civil war, and now almost assuredly deployed chemical weapons against their own people. But the rebels aren't much better - Al-Qaida affiliated animals, engaging in cannibalism
and other horrors, and admitting to using chemical weapons themselves.
These are the factions: it is a fight of evil vs. evil, with the innocent Syrian people caught in the crossfire. And while President Obama will most likely come out against Assad if & when U.S. forces engage in the conflict, there is nothing to gain for the United States, or the rest of the world, if Assad is deposed and the rebels take over. It could very well end up like the situation in Egypt - depose the dictator & put a more evil Islamist faction in charge, which in the end only makes the situation worse...except in Syria, there is little chance that the backlash will make Cairo look tame in comparison.
The Real Goal?
President Obama's speech about engagement in Syria calls for a limited scope
'but his words contradict his proposal to Congress, which calls for much broader powers
than the limited air campaign that he claims to want. There is also the question of what, exactly, President Obama will be seeking to attack with this air campaign ' as Senator Rand Paul stated on Meet the Press,
the Administration has stated that they are unwilling to target chemical weapons sites due to the likelihood of civilian casualties.
This makes one wonder: what is the goal? If we won't be taking out the chemical weapons themselves due to risks to the civilian population, then what will
the U.S. military be targeting in Syria? Will the goal simply be to hit Syrian military targets in the hopes of turning the tide in favor of the Al-Qaida cannibals? We already know that chemical weapons in Assad's hands are a bad thing; what will we do if, thanks to our actions, Assad is overthrown and those weapons end up in the hands of a much worse regime?
A Grand Strategy
Given the no-win scenario that Syria represents, it seems likely that the president's sudden delay and desire to engage Congress on the Syria question goes far beyond a simple desire to get Congress's and the American People's buy-in on the use of force. I disagree with President Obama on virtually everything, but the man is no fool. By declaring the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime a "red line" that would necessitate America's use of force, the president backed himself into a corner. If he doesn't attack, he appears weak and his word will mean nothing to the world community. To him, Congress is his one out - his ace in the hole no matter which way it goes.
If Congress votes down military action in Syria, the United States still looks weak to the rest of the world, with all of the accompanying implications in Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere, but it gives President Obama the luxury of personal vindication - he couldn't do anything about it, after all, his hands being tied by the same Congress that battles him on issue after issue domestically nearly every day. And since President Obama has repeatedly stated that he already has the authority to take military action in Syria, it seems quite clear that a "no" vote by Congress will be used as a political opportunity for President Obama to once again flex his Executive Branch muscles and take military action in Syria anyway.
On the other hand, if Congress approves military action, then it will allow President Obama to wash his hands of any negative consequences that may result from the United States backing the wrong horse in this war where no horse is the right horse.
In the end, this all basically amounts to "The Limbaugh Theorem"
in action - passing the buck to Congress gives President Obama the perfect scapegoat, all wrapped up with a neat little bow. No matter which way the vote goes, President Obama will be able to blame any negative repercussions on Congress, all the while taking credit for any successes. In the end, Syria's civil war just becomes another part of President Obama's Perpetual Campaign.