Syria: The Perils of Unserious Policy

shutterstock_112013561Has the president’s widest window to enforce his own ‘red line’ policy in Syria already closed?

The domestic politics are dicey at best.

If President Obama wanted to send a statement of his seriousness to Bashar Assad, delivered via stand-off weapons like cruise missiles, he should have done so using existent precedence for the executive branch to authorize limited military actions. Certainly, his goal is not considerably larger than that; this intervention would be to save face, which is sadly not unheard of in the history of warfare.

The problem is, the president is daily displaying how inept his leadership on, and understanding of, foreign affairs and matters military truly is.

He didn’t, strictly speaking, need congressional approval to strike Syria, (he didn’t seem to in Libya), but he chose to go that route and enlist the Hill’s help this time, (in the wake of the Libyan debacle) to blur the lines and take his fingerprints off the potential blowback that could arise from such a strike. Or to give him a convenient out in the case of non-action, (“hey, Congress said ‘no’. We’re a democracy, etc., etc.”).

It seems the president spells ‘Syria’ with ‘C-Y-A’.

That is, indeed, what this proposed enterprise is all about. It’s notably not about removing Assad, ending the slaughter, or realizing a larger vision for the region. This is obvious, since he is intent on proving to us just how inconsequential and non sequitur this strike is designed to be.

With all the incessant pledges to place “no boots on the ground” and that this strike “won’t escalate” and is a “proportional response” and serves as a “shot across the bow”–it’s clear he doesn’t really feel the mission is a substantial one. It’s a slap-on-the-wrist punishment by his own admission.

So, why the hell are we talking about doing it?

Well, President Obama, showing his inexperience, decided to talk tough about the issue without caring about the import of his words. Maybe not even knowing the import of his words. He’s done this time and time again but, with foreign policy, bluster has a tendency to be heard around the world. He talked himself into a corner, and now his reputation and credibility is on the line–despite his childlike protests to the contrary. He claims it is Congress, and not he, who have placed their credibility in jeopardy, once again attempting to spread or outright avoid any blame for the grotesque state of the nation’s affairs.

But Congress can’t launch a military strike–when people die on a battlefield in which America is a participant, as President Truman said: the buck stops here.

When a president clearly doesn’t truly believe in his own war policy, few others will follow his dictates. He doesn’t, so people won’t.

The next danger with regard to his ineptitude on the Syrian question is this: if the authorization for military force fails in Congress, with this current round of international tough talk and ill-considered sabre-rattling he’s doing, will he once more find his hand has been forced to blood our swords? Without the imprimatur of the legislative branch, or to the direct contrary of its intentions?

If the president strikes Syria without approval now, with no clear military objective or outstanding national security interest, a great hue and cry will be raised about its constitutionality. And all for nothing to begin with.

This is the danger of putting inexperienced, unserious men in positions of ultimate power and why people should consider the power of their own words and voice–in the form of their franchise–when the time comes to continue the president’s legacy of anti-leadership.

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