President Obama and his key political strategist David Axelrod, think they have the Republican-controlled and pro-militaristic House of Representatives, over a foreign policy barrel.
For over four years, Obama has been waging war against Congressional Republicans over the majority of his policy initiatives: Obamacare, greater gun control, the budget, the debt ceiling, the sequester and immigration reform, to name a few.
In each case, Obama has vainly tried, and mostly failed to secure the support of any Congressional Republican for his policy proposals.
This time, Obama believes he has executed a brilliant winning strategy, against the obstructionist Congressional Republicans.
Obama and Axelrod are confident that the Congressional Republicans will put aside their personal disdain for Obama and domestic partisan concerns and support Obama’s limited military strike against Syria for the sake of defending America’s national security interests and enforcing the international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons.
I predict Obama will not obtain Congressional support and will suffer a humiliating personal and political defeat.
Let me elaborate why Obama is going to lose this vote in Congress next week.
Firstly, Obama has the constitutional authority to order a military strike against Syria as Commander in Chief, without Congressional approval. It would have been sufficient for Obama to confer and consult with the Senate and House leaders of both parties. Provide them with intelligent reports and briefings. And then he would have obtained their unqualified and active support. And with the cover of bipartisan Congressional leadership support, Obama could have attacked Syria militarily in a limited but effective fashion, without suffering any major political negative fallout.
Instead, Obama has in effect transferred the constitutional power to engage in a limited military strike from the President to Congress. A representative body, more interested in domestic politics, public opinion and the 2014 midterm elections than in the long-term national security interests of America.
I submit that Obama has unnecessarily lost control of his agenda. And domestic politics will trump his more national security and international security concerns.
Secondly, public opinion polls indicate that the American people are about 60% opposed to any military strike against Syria, as opposed to about 40% in favour of such a military action. Thus making it easier for Congressional Republicans and some Congressional Democrats to vote against the President.
Thirdly, there is a strong faction in the Congressional Republicans, who are Tea Party/Libertarian/isolationists, (i.e. staunch followers of Republican Senator Rand Paul) who are adamantly opposed to the US spending good money on arms and weaponry, to partially attack Syria and its President Assad, just for the limited purpose of symbolically expressing US displeasure. They will definitely oppose Obama on this action.
Fourthly, there is a strong faction in the Democratic Party who are pacifistic, anti-war and in favour of multilateral peaceful negotiations through the good offices of the UN. They recall all too well the lessons of the misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially the former situation, where the US attacked Iraq on faulty intelligence and without clear cut UN support. As is the case once again, in terms of the lack of UN authorization. Though Democratic leader Pelosi, will try to whip up Democratic support, I predict that many Democrats will vote their conscience against their own President.
Fifthly, there is a serious disconnect between Obama’s military objective of stopping the Syrian Government from using chemical weapons and the actual end result of such a limited military strike. Notwithstanding that over 100,000 Syrian lives have been lost to date, and that two million Syrian refugees have been created, over about two years of civil war, Obama is only acting now, due to the alleged use of chemical weapons, which have apparently killed about 1,400 people. It will be really tough to convince Republicans and the American people, that there is a moral imperative to now fight against the loss of 1,000 lives due to chemical weapons, when there was no such moral imperative, when over 100,000 Syrian lives have been lost to date.
Obama has also stated that cruise missiles launched from US warships will be the thrust of the military strike.
Practically, such a strike may damage Syrian airfields and some airplanes, but in no way will such a long distance strike, destroy or adversely affect the Syrian Government’s extensive holdings of chemical weapons, which are probably hidden in very deep underground bunkers and storage centres.
As Obama has stated, such a limited strike, is no more than a symbolic “shot across the bow”. This is another reason why many Congressmen will oppose this limited military strike. What is the point, if the practical result will be the failure to destroy Syria’s large cache of chemical weapons?
Sixthly, the old saying may kick in for President Assad. What does not literally kill him, will literally make him stronger. Secretary of State Kerry has admitted that the military objective is not regime change, so that the Syrian President will survive a limited American military strike. As a result, the Syrian President may be emboldened by his survival and may continue to wage civil war and continue to kill his fellow citizens. So what has Obama accomplished by this strike? On the face of it, not so much.
Seventhly, America’s own security interests are not directly affected by the Syrian civil war. It also does not make a lot of sense to suggest that America’s national interests are best served by such a limited strike, because such a strike will provide greater protection to US allies in the region such as Israel, Turkey and Jordan.
It actually serves Israel’s interests if its three major enemies, Syria and Hezbollah and Iran are caught up in this Syrian civil war and many of their own men are being killed in the fighting.
A US military strike against Syria, although symbolic, may lead to Syria and Hezbollah and Iran attacking Israel, which event will clearly undermine Israel’s security, not enhance it.
Lastly, Obama and his people will argue that for the US to do nothing after Obama has stated over a year ago that the use of chemical weapons was a red line that should not be crossed, would result in the US losing international credibility.
Well, I hate to break this to Obama and his sycophantic followers, but that proverbial ship has sailed months, if not years ago. Obama has been dithering while Syrians burned. His public and pathetic displays of indecision and navel gazing and internal soul searching, for the last two years, if not longer, have all contributed to undermining America’s international standing in the world.
This proposed limited military strike will do nothing to enhance Obama’s and America’s diminishing power and diminishing deterrent force.
For this reason and the above reasons, Congress will cast a resounding ” no” vote against Obama, which will further undermine his Presidency.
Perhaps Obama should bring back to his Administration the only senior government official with steel cojones, Hillary Clinton. Now there is a one tough Democrat who would strike fear in the hearts of the Syrians, Iranians and Hezbollah.