Sunday, September 1, 2013

Obama's Stutter Step on Syria

Watching President Obama's press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday reminded me of that courtroom scene in the movie Animal House in which Delta Tau Chi is fighting for its life. After Neidermeyer finishes making his case for disbanding the frat house, John Belushi's character Bluto mumbles "Bullshit" under his breath.

The scene was hysterical; the press conference anything but.

In the end, Obama had no choice but to punt. He had no allies (spare me the French), no U.N. resolution, no Arab League blessing, and at home an approval rating hovering in the single digits. Going to Congress for authorization was the best move he could make, given that he boxed himself into a corner.

Of course, the smart move would've been not to draw any red lines in the first place, but that ship sailed long ago. He's stuck with it now. And while he will undoubtedly take a lot of heat for what can only - and rightly - be construed as waffling, the alternative, launching a unilateral air strike without Congressional approval, would've been far worse. The wingnuts on the Right would've gone ahead with their plans to impeach him and the progressives on the far Left would've abandoned him like a sinking ship.

It pains me to say this, but Obama screwed the pooch on this one. His poor judgment and mixed singles have made a bad situation worse. I'm actually hoping (praying, actually) that Congress doesn't give him the okay. The more I read up on this, the more convinced I become that the potential downside of moving forward with an airstrike is far greater than the prudence of abstaining.

So say many experts who warn that intervening in the conflict "overlooks the potential to worsen the violence in Syria and intensify a fight for regional influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The American strike could hit President Assad’s military without fundamentally changing the dynamic in a stalemated civil war that has already left more than 100,000 people dead. At the same time, few expect that a barrage of Cruise missiles would prompt either side to work in earnest for a political settlement. Given that, the skeptics say it may not be worth the risks."

And then there's the ongoing problem of growing unrest with American foreign policy in the region. Ever since the Iraq war, the U.S. has had to contend with an increasing loss of credibility throughout the Middle East. Many experts maintain that a military strike on Syria could intensify that unrest, heighten tensions and accelerate the loss of credibility, not to mention further destabilize the whole area.   

Here's a hint, when neo-cons like Bill Krystol are your loudest advocates, you know you're locomotive is going the wrong way, and right about now, Obama is this close to slamming the 20th Century Limited right dab into a steel embankment.

If Congress denies him the authorization when they return from their recess, the President should do what his counterpart in Britain did. Take it like the gift it was intended and sit down. It hurts like hell getting your feathers ruffled, but it's a lot less painful than going down in history as George W. Bush II.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I agree, Pete. If Congress rejects his request, it would be the best gift he's ever been given (even better than the Hot Wheels set he got for Xmas '72). If Congress rolls over, at least there's Putin, who could always say, "See you on the battlefield, Barry." Either would save him some face, not to mention save thousands of lives (which ought to be the more important consideration).