Boehner's Syria Surrender
By Matthew Vadum
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated yesterday he trusts President Obama to carry out military strikes against Syrian government targets as punishment for that government’s alleged use of poison gas against its own citizens.
“The use of these weapons has to be responded to, and only the U.S. has the capability,” Boehner said after President Obama feted him at the White House. “I’m going to support the president’s call for action and I believe my colleagues should support this call for action.”
Boehner’s decision is already hurting his standing in his own political party, further embittering rank-and-file conservatives who accuse him of being a weak leader. Boehner’s action amounts to siding with the same administration that lied its way into war in Libya, tried to cover up the deadly fiasco in Benghazi, Libya, and that even now sides with the Islamofascist terrorists of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
On Aug. 31, with his approval ratings and second-term agenda in tatters, President Obama said ”after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”
It will not be “an open-ended intervention” and there would be no “boots on the ground,” he said. “I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.”
“What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”
After Obama described himself inaccurately as “president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy” –the U.S. is a constitutional republic, not a democracy– he said he would ask Congress for authorization to use force overseas.
Although Obama said he believes he already possesses “the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.”
“We should have this debate,” he said, “because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy. ”
After months of heel-dragging, the administration said several weeks ago that Syria’s government crossed the much-vaunted “red line” President Obama laid down for U.S. action in that regime’s two year war against opposition forces. Obama said last summer that if Syria used chemical weapons such an action would be a “game-changer” for the United States.
Pundit Charles Krauthammer said Obama isn’t seeking congressional approval now because he holds lofty principles:
His respect for the separation of powers and for the role of Congress is rather minimal, as he showed with suspension of provisions of health care, the creation of the DREAM Act and one executive fiat by suspending half of the immigration laws.
Look, this isn’t a sudden stroke of constitutionalism. This is simply expediency and delay. The problem is not that he’s not selling his strategy. It’s that he doesn’t have a strategy. And that’s the reason everybody, left, right, and center, has no idea what he’s doing. He zigzagged left and right. He telegraphs he’s going to strike, he does nothing. He calls on the Congress and then goes off and plays golf when his secretary of state had given a speech the day before with remarkable urgency and passion.
More likely Obama is trying to divide the Republican Party internally and get the GOP associated with what promises to be a disastrous foreign policy move.
As Obama adviser David Axelrod gloated on Twitter, “Big move by [president of the United States]. Consistent with his principles. Congress is now the dog that caught the car. Should be a fascinating week!” Obama knows that throwing the issue to Congress should take the GOP’s focus off the much more important legislative battles of the weeks ahead.
Obama and his advisers also know they can count on friendly media outlets to spin whatever transpires overseas in the administration’s favor.
Obama’s determination to win congressional approval comes after British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government suffered a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. Considering how badly Obama has treated the British since taking office, it’s not all that surprising that a resolution authorizing the use of British military might in the proposed U.S.-led Syrian adventure was defeated in Parliament last week in a vote of 285 to 272.
Meanwhile, Obama’s plan to assault Syrian government targets was also embraced yesterday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Despite the endorsements, Obama still faces an “uphill battle” for congressional support, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
That there will be much of a battle in Congress is difficult to believe. According to Bloomberg News, “no U.S. president has ever been turned down by Congress when asking to use military force.”
Boehner’s entirely predictable move is just the latest in a long series of unnecessary capitulations by the famously conflict-averse lawmaker. It very likely foreshadows Boehner’s approaching cave-ins on raising the national debt ceiling, Obamacare funding, and immigration reform.
Some conservatives have offered half-hearted endorsements of the enterprise. Others say Obama must attack Syria to maintain U.S. prestige.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says the U.S. must hit Syria to remain credible as a superpower, an argument rejected by foreign policy veteran Andrew McCarthy. “No matter how wrong [McCain] is, the Republicans seem to line up behind him,” McCarthy said on Mark Levin’s radio show last night.
There are always going to be plenty of double-level, Realpolitik, chess-player justifications for intervening in a place like Syria but in the end it is unclear how attacking the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will serve America’s national interests.
Assad is aligned with the Islamists in Iran and the opposition to his regime consists largely of Islamists themselves. There is no silver lining to U.S. involvement in Syria. The Middle East is a mess as it more or less always has been.
And it is unclear how bombing government targets in Syria will serve any larger purpose — political, strategic, or humanitarian.
At a congressional hearing yesterday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey was unable to explain what the administration hoped to accomplish by attacking Syria.
“What is it you’re seeking?” asked Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
“I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking,” Dempsey said.