The Congress trap will let Obama opt out of an attack that he is ambivalent about while blaming Republicans for destroying American credibility. Even now the progressive spin machine is roaring into action and denouncing Congress for not immediately returning to session to consider Obama’s plan.
Considering that Obama waited for two years before deciding to bomb Syria, it seems ridiculously hypocritical of his political palace guard to denounce Congress for not immediately springing into action; but hypocrisy is hardly an obstacle for a Democratic Party that dramatically reversed its position on Iraq and now once again favors unilateral wars over WMDs.
Obama’s Rose Garden speech baited the trap with its warning to Congress to avoid partisan politics.
"I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment. Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it's about who we are as a country. I believe that the people's representatives must be invested in what America does abroad," Obama said.
That is the Catch 22 trap. Either Congress adopts an unpopular attack in order to do the supposedly responsible thing or it gets accused of sabotaging American credibility for partisan politics and is held responsible for a great many dead children.
Obama prefers creating Alinskyite political traps for his opponents over doing the responsible thing. And his favorite trap is the one that shifts the blame for his irresponsibility to the Congressional Republicans who have been his favorite target ever since Bush retired to paint dog pictures.
Either Congress “invests” in Obama’s war and immunizes him from criticism by the Republican Party. Or Obama opts out of the war and blames Republican obstructionism for undermining American credibility abroad while splitting the Republican Party between interventionists and non-interventionists.
Obama’s speech and the distorted media coverage of it have given the impression that Congress gets the final say and that Republicans either have to give Obama a blank check on Syria or get the blame. These are the same cynical tactics that Obama has employed on the economy.
When faced with a difficult political choice, Obama’s natural instinct is to find someone to blame and to use that blame to sow division among his enemies while escaping responsibility for his own disaster.
On the debt ceiling, Obama self-righteously insisted that he would not allow Congress to avoid “paying our bills”. The bills were actually his bills, but he frequently uses the singular possessive pronoun for things that he believes that he controls but does not own, like the United States military, but shifts over to the plural possessive pronoun when trying to avoid responsibility for things that he should own up to.
"Now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments," Obama said in the Rose Garden. But America had made no such collective commitments. Congress certainly had not.
When avoiding responsibility, Obama uses “Our” to mean “Mine”. What he really means is that having made a mess of Syria, he intends to dump the problem on Congress and make it “our problem” while still keeping all of his options open.
Once Congress begins debating Syria, the media will spin it as “partisanship” and an inability to reach a decision while contrasting that unfavorably with the decisiveness that led Obama to announce that his red line had been crossed some months later. Congress will be lambasted in editorials and cartoons for being unable to make a decision while Syrian children are dying.
Congress can give Obama the option of staying out of Syria while scoring political points. And that is why the Republican Party has to be careful when navigating these treacherous political currents.
Americans largely oppose intervention in Syria. So do most other countries. The Republican Party should not undermine its 2014 prospects by rubber stamping an unpopular military campaign that will raise Obama’s profile and reward Al Qaeda. But it should also avoid giving the appearance of irresponsibility that the media will be looking to seize on.
The best way to blunt the push for war is to ask the tough questions about the links between Al Qaeda and the Free Syrian Army, why so little attention is being paid to chemical weapons manufacture by the Al Nusra Front and whether the strikes will actually destroy Assad’s WMD stockpiles or whether they are only meant as the symbolic gesture that some officials have said that they will be.
Obama has said that he does not intend to intervene in the war or to implement regime change by military means. These assertions would be more credible if he were not arming the Syrian rebels and if he were willing to carry out drone strikes against Al Nusra Front leaders, instead of limiting the attack to the Syrian military, implicitly favoring the operatives of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Mitt Romney failed to be fully prepared when challenging Obama’s Libyan War narrative. Republicans should learn from his mistake.
Benghazi was the outcome of Obama’s Libyan War. Republicans failed to hold him accountable for that. Now Obama has thrown another war with even more dangerous implications into the lap of Congress while hoping that it will blow up in their faces.
The debate will provide a national forum to question whether we should be picking a side in this war. The interventionists will point to photos of dead children, a staple of regional conflicts, but Republicans should instead ask the hard questions about the number of dead and exiled Christians at the hands of the Islamist militias we will be fighting to protect. And they should even call on some of them to testify.
In Libya, Obama claimed that the humanitarian plight of the people of Benghazi required urgent military intervention, but it was really the Islamist militias of Benghazi that he was worried about. In Syria, any strikes will be conducted on behalf of the same Islamist militias scrambling to hold on to cities that were once full of Christians, but are now run by Sunni Islamic Jihadists implementing Islamic law at gunpoint.
Obama intends to use Syria as a weapon in a political power struggle against the United States Congress, but it’s also an opening for exposing his Muslim Brotherhood alliances and the wisdom of his Muslim Brotherhood regime change operations in Syria and Egypt.
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