Obama: US should take military action against Syrian regime targets… but

….I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. This is from POTUS’s statement on Syria.

Questions:

1. President Obama said that he will ask Congress for authorization of the military strike on Syria. Why would you say Obama has chosen this path though he said that the US should take the military action?

2. I know we can only speculate, but do you think that the lawmakers will support the military action or not, and why?

Answers:

Sean KayProfessor, Department of Politics and Government, Ohio Wesleyan University

1.  One has to take the president at his word, that he felt it was essential to have the Congress on record in support.  The hard reality is that the kind of military action the administration has been describing has major risks of escalation well beyond a couple of days of air strikes.  It would be foolish of any president to assume that kind of risk alone.  A nation goes to war, not a president.

2.  It is very hard to know, but the members of Congress have to be hearing from their constituents that this escalation into the Syrian civil war, which is what it really will be, is deeply unpopular.  The Democrats would not wish to see their party’s president weakened.  On the other hand, if they see their president going off on a course for more war that he had promised he would not do, then its very possible he could lose if he can’t sustain enough Democrats in support.  It is refreshing to see Congress finally stepping up to its Constitutional responsibilities regarding war powers – either way, that is good news.  One can only hope that if it is clearly a mistaken engagement, Congress would also have the wisdom to say no, as the British did.

James CarafanoVice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation

1. He is indecisive and feels vulnerable. After all he he did not do this for Libya. I think the President views as a win win way to escape a course of action that has proven widely unpopular.  If Congress says no he can say he demonstrated empathy with international community. If Congress says yes and it does not go well he cay say “we are all in this together.”  but it shows a real lack of leadership and foresight–he should have built support before his declaration to act not after.

2. Senate I think will.  House not so sure.

Jack Goldstone, Professor, Director, Center for Global Policy, George Mason University

1. Obama is confident he can persuade Congress to take action. He is NOT confident that Congress will back him up if he acts without giving them a chance to debate this decision.

ALSO: This pause gives Obama a chance to meet with Putin over the coming week and discuss options, such as how Russia might respond and what evidence might persuade Russia to drop its support for Assad. That is useful; but it is better for the American public to justify this as waiting to consult with Congress, rather than to consult with Russia.

2. I think Congress will support the President, if the President is determined to act against Syria. Assad has crossed a red line drawn by the President; Congress is unlikely to ask the President to back down and tolerate this action by Assad. US influence in Iran and N. Korea and elsewhere is at stake.

Kurk DorseyAssociate Professor of History, University of New Hampshire

1. I believe that President Obama decided to ask for Congressional authorization largely because he got enormous pressure from the press and members of Congress to do so. The specific factors that made the pressure sufficient to force him to change course were the sudden shift in British policy and the recognition that he had almost no public support at home for any military action in Syria. More deeply than that, I think, is Obama’s hesitation to act in Syria at all. I suspect that he regrets the vagueness of his red-line warning: “a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” And he deeply regrets not having engaged the American public on the issue of Syria before. Had he been serious, he could have asked Congressional leaders for support a while back.

2. I am sure that the Senate will vote to support him after a strenuous debate. The House will split, but I expect a narrow vote in favor. It will be especially difficult for President Obama if he gets only the Senate, but my guess is that he wouldn’t ask for this vote if he didn’t have the votes counted already. At the same time, I wonder if secretly he hopes that Congress will bail him out by voting no.

What I find really most striking is that a man who became president largely because he opposed the Iraq War (which Hillary Clinton and John Edwards could not claim) has fallen back on credibility as a reason to use force in Syria. Surely, Senator Obama would have pointed out that credibility, which is nearly impossible to measure, is a bad reason to risk American lives.

And the other question which we should debate is: why is it worse to kill someone with chemical weapons than with high explosives or assault rifles or starvation? I suspect that the President would like to avoid that debate.

David MislanAssistant Professor, School of International Service, American University

1. I think that the president put himself in a very difficult position when he said that the use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line.’ He believes that if he doesn’t follow through on that threat with military action, it would damage America’s reputation and its credibility to make threats in the future. On the other hand, all major polls indicate that a majority of Americans do not support any military action against Syria. On Friday, Obama and his advisors were ready to strike, yet they made a last minute decision to defer the decision to Congress. It’s a matter of strategy and domestic politics. If Congress approves action, it will share the blame for an unpopular decision. If Congress denies authorization, the president can’t be blamed for being ‘soft’ on foreign policy issues. It’s a clever and very shrewd move.

2. Each party is split on the issue, so it’s difficult to say. The most vocal criticism from Congress this week was about the Constitutionality of the president’s unilateral use of force, so those critics won’t necessarily vote against the president’s proposal. There is certainly enough support in the Senate, but a vote in the House will be very close. My guess is that the Senate will approve, but I wouldn’t bet either way on the House.

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