Syria Intervention Would Reaffirm Obama’s Biggest Flip-Flop

He was explicit in 2007 that Presidents don't have the authority to act unilaterally except to stop 'an actual or imminent threat'

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Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama walks along the West Wing colonnade of the White House in Washington on Aug. 22, 2013

In 2007, Barack Obama was asked when Presidents have the authority to launch a military strike without congressional authorization. He had a precise answer at the ready.

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat,” Obama told the Boston Globe.

Back then, the target in question was Iran, and Obama was a first-term Senator running for President against the excesses of George W. Bush’s foreign policy. But the statement stands in stark opposition to Obama’s view now. The Obama Administration is on the cusp of intervening in a Syrian civil war that by all accounts does not pose an imminent domestic threat to the U.S. And Obama appears set to unilaterally authorize punitive strikes against Bashar Assad’s regime.

It would not be the first time Obama acted outside his own previous definition of presidential war powers. In 2011, with a bloody conflict escalating in Libya, Obama authorized the U.S. to join an international coalition that established a no-fly zone in order to stem the threat of mass slaughter. Obama argued the intervention was justified.

“The growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States,” he wrote in a letter to Congress. Officials pointed to the possibility of an imminent massacre of rebel forces, but no immediate threat to national security.

“In 2007, Obama was adamant that the President did not have the power to authorize an attack if there was no imminent threat to the U.S.,” PolitiFact wrote at the time. “But now he has authorized just such an action.” The fact-checking site called the reversal a “full flop.”

He isn’t the only one. As reported by NBC News, as a presidential candidate in 2007, now Vice President Joe Biden threatened to impeach President Bush if he unilaterally attacked Iran. “And I want to make it clear, I want it on the record, and I want to make it clear, if he does, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and former chair of the Judiciary Committee, I will move to impeach him.”

Now Obama appears poised to solidify his new position. In the wake of an apparent chemical-weapons attack on a rebel-held neighborhood outside Damascus, his Administration is preparing to retaliate against Syrian military targets to punish Assad for crossing a U.S. “redline.” Secretary of State John Kerry called the chemical attack, which according to the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders killed hundreds, a “moral obscenity.” But no one in his Administration has claimed the spiraling conflict in Syria threatens U.S. security at home.

For that reason, lawmakers in both parties are urging Obama to confer with the legislative branch before acting.

“Absent an imminent threat to United States national security, the U.S. should not be engaged in military action without congressional approval,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and an Obama ally.

If members want to put their stamp on the decision, they disagree on what it should look like. Some, like libertarian Michigan Representative Justin Amash and Virginia Representative Scott Rigell, say it is unconstitutional for Obama to intervene in Syria without a vote in Congress. House Speaker John Boehner, on the other hand, called for “meaningful consultation with members of Congress.” The vagueness of the phrase suggests Boehner isn’t eager to take a vote that could put him on the wrong side of history if the situation sours.

He wouldn’t be alone. While Congress likes to moan about having its powers usurped, it rarely uses them: the legislative branch has not issued a full declaration of war since before Obama was born. “As a general matter, of course as we consider military options, we also look at the legal and congressional implications,” says a senior Administration official.

The White House also argues that the atrocities allegedly committed by the Syrian regime met the “imminent threat” test Obama set forth in 2007. Allowing Syria to violate international standards prohibiting the use of chemical weapons would pose future threats to the U.S., White House press secretary Jay Carney argued Tuesday. “The consequences of that standard dissolving are enormous and very detrimental to the national security of the United States,” Carney said. “I believe that absolutely allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale without a response would present a significant challenge — threat — to the United States national security.”

But not even Carney argued that such a threat would require the sort of speed inconsistent with obtaining congressional approval as promised by Obama.

255 comments
almonjer
almonjer

FIVE REASONS NOT TO BELIEVE ONE WORD ON SYRIA COMING OUT OF DC:

5) IRAQ WAR 2 LIES (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/iraqi-defector-al-janabi-codenamed-curveball-admits-wmd/story?id=12922213)

4) IRAQ WAR 1/THE GULF WAR  LIES (http://911review.com/precedent/decade/incubators.html)

3) THE 911 HIJACKERS CAME FROM CANADA LIES WHEN THEY ACTUALLY WERE GIVEN VISAS BY DC

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2009/04/24/911_terrorists_came_from_canada_mccain_insists.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-503611.html

2) DC POLITICIANS/THE NSA/CIA ARE NOT BREAKING INTO YOUR EMAIL AND PHONE CALLS LIES

http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/12/4614968/president-obama-james-clapper-dni-surveillance-review-group

ANYONE THAT GOES FOR THIS IS A SLAVE SIMPLE AND PLAIN

http://www.propublica.org/article/the-nsas-secret-campaign-to-crack-undermine-internet-encryption

1)THE LAVON AFFAIR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair)

tamabile1
tamabile1

Ironic how your words can come back to bite you. So, either you are for or against the war in Syria and there is no mistaking it. If you go in and do any military action from the water, air or ground...it is war nothing else. Like I see it, our President has been backed into a corner. During the Presidential election, he explicitly stated the President does not have the authority to act unilaterally except to stop an actual or imminent threat. That means a threat to the U.S. Then recently, he explicitly put Syria on notice and drew a straight hard line. It now appears that the Syrian President has crossed it. In this situation, What would you do? I feel on one hand, we need to leave it to the Syrian people and let their own internal turmoil play out because it is their own civil war. On the other hand, their government is killing their own people to include women and children. Where are the leaders of the surrounding countries of Syria? Why are they not doing something? Let's have an open debate, let citizens tell their Senators and Congressman's where they stand before we move forward. The President does need Congress and the Senate to agree before we go to war. Yes..war because before you do any action, you have to have a plan and you have to go all the way. No half ass approach and hit them hard and fast!!! So..do I want war "NO!!" but I am a Christian and feel someone at some point has to do something. If it ends up being the U.S. (yet again) then do it right, and give the military everything they need to WIN!!!!

stephanluclarose
stephanluclarose

We should be doing missile strikes against J.P. Morgan and Monsanto if we're going to bomb a bunch of neighborhoods in Syria and rack up our own list of innocent victims. Our sociopathic corporate monoliths are far bigger threats to us than whatever is happening in Syria. American infrastructure and society is crumbling to pieces from all the debt these wars and defense expenditures have incurred Time to dismantle the military and focus on retrofitting the entire U.S. economy to be sustainable, drastically reduce our economic inequality and invest in education both here and abroad. War begets terrorism, you want a stable planet, stop bombing other countries illegally, stop letting the obscenely rich have a disproportionate influence on politics, and stop letting Israel and corporate monopolies/oligopolies run the show.

TenNamesLater
TenNamesLater

@kevlynhall I still believe O was sending arms to Syria .... From Benghazi.... Thru Turkey and Egypt. I worry he's been arming AQ all along.

AhmedElnaggar
AhmedElnaggar

UN says it is the opposition, funded by the US, that used chemical weapons!

newsscooper
newsscooper

If it weren't for double standards the Obama administration might have no standards at all.

What if the tables were turned and it was Syria launching Cruise Missiles on NY and DC as a 'limited strike' to punish us for the way the IRS treated Tea Party Groups or for how we treat our Native Americans or  how we abort our pre-born U.S. citizens? www.tinyurl.com/nuy7bdj 

Perhaps they could just hit Wall Street, The Pentagon and the Elvis Museum in Tupelo--exercising restraint against another sovereign nation.

Discursions
Discursions

Time's favorite president ever now can do one of two things -- go it alone in an unilateral, unpopular and illegal war, or, after all his sabre rattling, retreat and confirm everyone's suspicion that he's spineless and weak.  Nice maneuvering, Barry.

Reiko5901
Reiko5901

@Wizardfkap look at my profile and uncover the right way to reduce 24 pounds in under 30 days

ApostasyUSA
ApostasyUSA

Uh what sort of drivel is this?  Any President can state that our country's security is at risk to justify military actions.  At least Obama isn't wasting trillions of tax dollars in countries that did not attack us (hello Iraq)! Boehner can take a hike on this one.  He and his worthless Congress needs to sit down and let the grown-ups do their job.  Here's a tissue for your tears Mr Weeper.

Where are all you fake "pro-lifers" on this one?  Aren't there lives to be "saved" in Syria?  

Western nations are in a tough place on this one.  They sat and watched as Syria fell into civil war and more than 100,000 people have died. Western nations sought to arm the opposition of the Assad regime, only to find they were standing with Al Qaeda.  

America is a war a wary country after Bush Inc. wasted trillions of tax dollars in Iraq only to watch as the country fell into it’s own civil war.  Thousands of people are still dying in Iraq each month.  The tax dollars we spent in Iraq could have funded Social Security for 75 years!!

 I find it horrifically laughable how Republicans think they have any credibility on this.  Obama is going to do whatever strikes are recommended and the idiots in the House are just going to have to suck it up.  The President doesn't need approval for missile strikes and Obama is not going to go the Bush route and put boots on the ground (quagmire).  Hopefully the military brass knows what they are doing. President Obama has said that it’s time the US does more to stop the violence.  His commanders are recommending missile strikes to weaken the Assad regime, but what then?

The situation in Syria is really messed up.  There are no good answers.  Should America be the world police? Can we afford to be?  Why do we have to hold the rest of the worlds hands on this? 

JuanViche
JuanViche

How the US Government Stole $23 Trillion from the American People

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/ambassador-lee-wanta-video-interview-plus-more.html

A CIA Hand in an American ‘Coup’?

http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/26/a-cia-hand-in-an-american-coup/

CIA files implicate Washington in chemical weapons use against Iran

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/08/28/cia-files-implicate-washington-in-chemical-weapons-use-agains-iran/

No Negotiation: China and Russia Walk Out of UN Security Council Meeting: “This Isn’t An Exercise”

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/no-negotiation-china-and-russia-walk-out-of-un-security-council-meeting-this-isnt-an-exercise.html

Assad Not Behind Chemical Weapons Attack Intelligence Suggests

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/assad-not-behind-chemical-weapons-attack-intelligence-suggests-.html

Private Attorney General in USA Requests URGENT Confirmation of This Video Evidence, Allegedly a Chemical Weapon (CW) Rocket Launch

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/private-attorney-general-in-usa-requests-urgent-confirmation-of-this-video-evidence-allegedly-a-chem.html

simkatu1
simkatu1

Yawn.  If he doesn't attack an Arab country then he's called a chicken and a coward and another Chamberlain.   If he does attack, then he's a flip-flopper.

If he's waiting for the Teahadists in the Republican Party to come to a consensus on what should be done in Syria, then he'll be waiting until eternity.   They either want to completely get out of the Middle East, (ala Ron Paul), or turn the whole place into a sheet of glass.   Whoever says the opposite of Obama gets the most airplay.

hbradish
hbradish

President OBarnum is just bucking for a seat at the Bush crime family table.

Oh to sit beside his predecessor, Carny Prince Bill and make ready a place for his aspiring Wicked Witch of the West wife.     

dundonrl
dundonrl

so... let me see here, a few hundred people die from chemical weapons and were ready to go to war, 120,000 people die from conventional weapons and screw em, it's not our problem.. (actually, NEITHER group that has died is OUR problem) lets stay out of another war in the middle east, but IF we are going into another war there, don't do it half assed. GO into Syria, destroy their ability to wage war and leave. The conflict would be over in a few weeks and we could leave (unless we decide were going to do what we do so poorly, "nation build" after the initial battles are over) 

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

is this the speaker of the house, or some poor white child with e.d. of the spine

Norm_Farrell
Norm_Farrell

@RodSmelser "I believe I have the authority [but] I know that the country will be stronger" IOW, I don't have to but I will.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@simkatu1 That is a lesson this idiot never learns and keep repeating. Never open your yap before making sure of the consequences. Warning about red lines when you dont have the gumption to do it. He is the laughingstock in the world now. Never mind here in America. But then he was not elected because of his achievements and plan because there never were plans. He got elected because of his mouth and the color of his skin.

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

@SeldenGADawgs @newtgingrich @BarackObama 

when the gop,is in power, are you out of your mind. the gop is a regional bump in history, will never be in the white house again, and in 20 years won't exist

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

@ClaireBQuinn @newtgingrich 

there is no sense of what rich white folks like me have done for ameika.benghazi, oh go screw yourself

KellyHenderson
KellyHenderson

@rebelready@newtgingrich@dhrxsol1234@BarackObamatry to be nice smeagol. i will if you ask the preciuos. the precious commands that you be nice. well , alright then don't have to shout. he is the president of the usa and represents the usa whether pusillanimous retards refuse to accept him. was that nice smeagol. not really, but you are who you are


ewittmers
ewittmers

@KellyHenderson, You sound like a orc who obeys and does whatever the Dark Lord Commands.  And anyone who doesn't follow him blindly like you is an idiot and deserves to be punished.

TomDean
TomDean

@LesPaulMarshall@TomDean@RodSmelserI didn't say he "invented" the red line - obviously he didn't. It is how he implemented the diplomatic-military tool of "the Red Line" that demonstrates a lack of a coherent plan or strategic thought process. 

This stuff is very complex and there are no "good" answers only least-bad or least-worst and I give Obama that just as I gave Bush that regarding Iraq. 

But the interests of the American people come first and foremost - period. And poor leadership by the POTUS in these matters not only undermines the State Department's ability to negotiate aggressively and effectively, but undermines the strength of America itself as perceived by both our allies and enemies. 

TomDean
TomDean

@Norm_Farrell @RodSmelser First, I am not a fan of Obama by a long shot. But there is precedent for the POTUS to take military action - short of war - without Congressional approval and it has been done many times (over 100 unless I'm mistaken) including Libya. 

To me, the POTUS has the power to "fire a shot across the bow" - but that is not the real issue. The problem here is that Obama has no plan for what to do if the shot across the bow doesn't work... If Assad laughs him off and another attack happens (I don't think Assad's forces used the gas, I believe it was some rebel faction or another) what is Obama going to do after promising that no Americans would set foot in Syria, yada, yada, yada. 

He painted himself into a corner with the 'Shifting Red Line of Doom' idiocy and now he's stuck there. He's undermined the diplomats who need a credible threat of significant military action to back up their negotiated demands. 

This whole thing is just rock stupid and very bad for the good people in Syria and the American people as well.

Norm_Farrell
Norm_Farrell

@RodSmelser One part of the Administration likely would support another USA has waged war without Congress declaring a specific war.