Three Reasons Congress May Not Approve War In Syria

Obama has challenged Congress to approve action in Syria, it’s a challenge Congress may not be able to meet

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SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington on May 15, 2013

Nearly 1,500 are dead in the worst chemical attack in the 21st Century, including hundreds of children. A red line has been crossed and America’s prestige and credibility at stake, not just in Syria but for any rogue nation looking to challenge the United States: Iran, North Korea, Venezuela. But getting Congress to approve even limited action in Syria, as President Obama asked them to do today, is going to be tough.

Here are three reasons why:

Weak House: The House tried and failed several times to get war authorization through on Libya. They  gave up trying when U.S. military action there ended. And Libya had the backing of the United Nations, NATO and the UK. Getting something through the House on Syria will be even harder than passing approval on Libya. With Libya, there was only moderate public interest in the Congressional machinations, since the authorization was retroactive given that President Obama had already approved U.S. involvement. This time around, all eyes will be on the House and the pressure will be intense. There’s a reason House Speaker John Boehner didn’t call on Obama to seek a vote of approval for action in Syria: This was one nightmare he was keen to avoid.

Splits both parties: Remember the 2004 election when President George W. Bush went around scaring folks about how Democrats were weak on defense? The days where Iraq and Afghanistan were partisan issues have gone. Washington has reverted to a foreign policy more akin to President Clinton’s days where both parties split on intervention. Now, as it was in the 1990’s, you have Democratic doves aligning with isolationist Libertarians. They face off against Republican Hawks and Democratic bleeding hearts. This makes whipping votes complicated, to say the least. It also makes Syria less of a partisan issue, which is the way going to war used to be. By throwing this to Congress, Obama is basically challenging all the backbenchers who have been vociferous in their criticism in the last 10 days—Liberals fearing another Iraq, Hawks saying we need to go farther on regime change—to stand up, be heard and unite behind a military action. It will likely be chaotic. Already two Republican Senate hawks, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, have announced they will not vote to authorize force in Syria unless Obama commits to an “an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the President’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict.” The White House has previously argued that there is no acceptable military solution for the civil war in Syria.

Unpopular: Polls show most Americans don’t want to see any kind of intervention in Syria, so if Congress votes to support this, they will be going against their constituents’ wishes, which is never easy especially for those up for reelection. Members are going to have to defend the intelligence and make the case to their supporters why it’s important to do this. To that end, a limited engagement is better, as they can make the argument that this isn’t the beginning of another decade of war.

Obama has a tough lift in the coming weeks convincing Congress—and the American people—to support his decision. He’ll have some allies to help him: Surely the American Israel Public Affairs Committee will help whip a vote, since having a failed state on the Israeli border isn’t appealing and the next looming red line is Iran. But that doesn’t make victory a sure bet.  Obama won his office, after all, arguing for withdrawal from the Middle East. Now he has set up a situation where his presidency—and the reputation of Congress—could be harmed if Congress does not approve more intervention.

188 comments
clumber
clumber

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists. Ernest Hemingway

kain3991
kain3991

its a sad day when america shows weakness and not act against our enemy lets see this "peace" when trouble is at our door...and to throw the fact that he said he wanted to bring home soldiers in his face but is trying to start another war well duh i don't think he saw this coming he has to roll with the punches...grow a backbone


hat.dina
hat.dina

It is a pandora`s box whatever is decided.The Congress vote is only an indication of  what  the american people want.

Whatever the US  will do ,they will be wrong,in the eyes of the people in the US and around the world.Damned if they strike on Syria and damned if they don`t.Public opinion is an elusive option.

abbasks
abbasks

I disagree with the statement that the "the reputation of Congress—could be harmed if Congress does not approve more intervention".  Disapproving an action deemed wrong by the Congress will enhance the reputation of the Congress as an independent "check" on the President's behavior and illustrate the implementation of the Constitutional safeguards against a President "having all the power".  Amazingly the U. S. government claims to support democracy but does not think it proper to consult the congress or the people before attacking another country which presents no threat to it.  Amazingly Mr. Kerry thinks that bombing Syria is not an act of war as U. S. soldiers will not be in Syria.  Just turn the situation around: If Syria even threatens to bomb the U. S., the U. S. would assume it is a war and try to bomb first.  Are we saying that rules do not apply to the U. S. because the U. S. is more powerful than others?  If the U. N. does not support the U. S., then the U. S. is not obliged to support the U. N. because clearly anyone who disagrees with the U. S. is wrong?  These are the attitudes and postures of a "bully" and not the republic of the Founding Fathers!



Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2013/08/31/three-reasons-congress-may-not-approve-war-in-syria/#ixzz2eB5dMN6G

lamlumlee
lamlumlee

1,500 were dead because of chemical attack, if US is to attack Syria, more than 15,000 lifes will be endangered.

steel_881
steel_881

@drkhaledah صباح الخير استاذتي ،، بالتغريده الاخيره كتبتي روسيا بدل سوريا .

MatthewR
MatthewR

There is an error in the article. Libertarians are not isolationists. An isolationist believes in a non-interventionist foreign policy and a protectionist trade policy. Libertarians support the former but oppose the latter as an economic fallacy.

BRoss
BRoss

America is sick to death of these offensive and interventionist wars.  We have been in the Middle East since Carter.  Kerry should be more than familiar with chemical weaponry, as are all the boomers who experienced Vietnam.  Maybe those in Congress that are pro offensive wars should be the first one to serve...including Obama ala George Washington.  The President should start serving in these wars, and members of Congress if they are so quick to call out the military, and continue bankrupting this country.  At this rate, we won't have any (or many) young men left.  Maybe that is the idea?  Kill all the young men so that those old foggies have more young women to choose from in their dementia?

elocllib
elocllib

Why aren't the media talking about Al Nusra Front, their association with Al Qaeda and their huge U.S. weapons cache?  Weak!

elocllib
elocllib

Here's another reason that we shouldn't go to war in Syria: 80 percent of the American people are against it!  I guess the isolationist public has had it with perpetual war for perpetual peace.

elocllib
elocllib

"isolationist" libertarians??  How 'bout non-interventionist?!  Libertarians are very much in favor of world diplomatic and economic interaction.  Libertarians are opposed to the initiation of force.  This includes foreign and domestic intervention.  Calling libertarians "isolationist" is a symptom of pro-war, pro-bloodbath, pro-killing children in other countries statist mindset.  I guess Time thinks killing brown kids on the other side of the world is okay.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Why would we intervene in Syria.  Syria is not an ally of America and the Syrian people don't like us. There is no American interest at stake. We are not the world's policeman.  Leave Syria to the rest of the world. Let's sit this one out!



BlankCodex
BlankCodex

Everybody is so anti-war it's absurd. In this case it's actually for our interests. We shouldn't have told Syria that we would interfere in the first place if we were fine with them massacring their citizens. As far as I'm concerned we have a responsibility to be true to our word.

icolight1
icolight1

Another war eh? The leaders in my country suck so much. This stinks of Political filth. Spy on us, large media conglomerates who are run by old money trying to goat this nation into more war... Whats next for the great country of america.  

tamoore
tamoore

Congress will in fact support Obama on this monstrous policy to bomb the innocent in Syria. This is because any Congress-Critter who votes to oppose Obama and this hideous aggression will be promptly targeted and ultimately politically defeated by the Jewish lobbies in the United States. Jews will gang up to fund the opponent of any Congress-Critter who opposes the war in Syria, a war solely for the benefit of worldwide Jewry.

jjazznola
jjazznola

If our allies were all in on this Obama would not have bothered to check in with Congress. As France is the only country that is going along Obama needs more support so he's looking to Congress for it. I doubt he'll get it.

AndreSalazar
AndreSalazar

The only thing that's interesting is that "Fox" & "CNN" are subtly trying their best to goat congress & the president into a war. If another war erupts, don't be surprised when the public no longer supports these publications. You're only speeding-up your demise with this fake form of journalism. I'm not sure how the president is going to explain this clear violation of law, yet attack someone they claim is breaking another set of laws. #crazy #JournalismEqualsPostsAndHitsForMoney #sad 

ValleyForge
ValleyForge

You're criticizing the House as being weak for not retroactively rubberstamping Obama's intervention in Libya. If they had rubberstamped it, they'd be weak. Instead, they left it as an unmuddled example of a president overstepping his authority.

In any case, comparing a meaningless Libya vote to a Syria vote that will be determinative is silly. Despite Obama's threats otherwise, he will not launch an attack after Congress votes no. That would simply prove he has no popular, legislative, or international support, instead of the legislative part being a guess.

drewsky51
drewsky51

This should be a UN action, not a bunch of cowboys going it alone (as usual). Britain has made it clear that they won't again be suckered or cajoled into another U.S. rabbithole and I applaud them for it. We should all take a cue from them.

allenwentz
allenwentz

@LeahR77 they should all vote "present", ala King Barack. Dump the whole thing into the lap of the Progressive Socialists.

Airmen82
Airmen82

What does it say about America if we let these types of things go on in the world?  What if this happened on American soil.  To use a super hero quote "with great power comes great responsibility".  Everyone watches us.  We have to be the baseline.  We have to set the standard.  I am curious as to how many people on this blog actually serve in the military, and fully understands why LOAC, and Geneva Conventions exists.

sweetpb
sweetpb

@MiaFarrow @TIME good I am for sending aid and supplies and whatever they need except any military action

drkhaledah
drkhaledah

@steel_881 جعل الله صباحكم نورا ورزقكم دعوةلا ترد ووهبكم رزقا لا يعد وفتح لكم بابا في الجنة لا يسد و رضي الله عنكم وأرضاكم وأعطاكم وكفاكم

drkhaledah
drkhaledah

@steel_881 الظاهر القلب بروسيا ما انسى ايام الصبا بها شكرا للملاحظه اخي الكريم

eagle11772
eagle11772

@BRoss Isn't Kerry the one who testified before Congress UNDER OATH that he murdered innocent civilians in Vietnam ?  Was he lying then or is he lying now ?

gdegelnor
gdegelnor

@elocllib I agree. When we have a congress that is for the people, this might be different. That's not

likely for some time though.

kain3991
kain3991

@elocllib kids died in the chemical attack and probably get killed in crossfire that isn't all that publicized besides id rather be pro whatever then turning a blind eye to a bad situation

eagle11772
eagle11772

@mllovric @TIME I don't. There are NO vital American interests at stake in Syria.  And unlike Saddam, Syria has NOT threatened any U.S. allies nor American interests.  And didn't The Obamaniac PROMISE to "end the wars" ? !  Now he wants to star a 3RD WAR ?  THIS is what the crazy Democrats (sorry to be redundant there) voted for this BUM for ? !

eagle11772
eagle11772

@icolight1 And now it turns out that under The Obamaniac, the Drug Enforcement Administration ha been recording EVERYBODY, and as a BIGGER DOMESTIC SPYING PROGRAM than the NSA !  THIS is what Democrats stand for ? !

gingerman
gingerman

@tamoore 

maybe, maybe not... so far no attach has been made to Syria..I'm not sure it will happen. Obama opened a Pandora's box by going to congress..

jjazznola
jjazznola

You may have a point there. It'll be a close vote whichever way it goes.

jjazznola
jjazznola

FOX practically had cheerleaders on set for "Shock & Awe". It didn't seem to hurt their ratings. Where else can foolish people turn for Unfair & Unbalanced so-called News?

gingerman
gingerman

@ValleyForge 

O could've gone alone on this and chose not to... at least give him credit for that..

eagle11772
eagle11772

@drewsky51 During the 2008 campaign didn't The Obamaniac criticize Bush for not getting U.N. support in Iraq, and now The Obamaniac is going to copy Bush's strategy and NOT get U.N. approval ? !  THIS is what democrats stand for ? !

ValleyForge
ValleyForge

@Airmen82 What does military service have to do with whether the US should single-handedly enforce international conventions? It is not our job and it is not in our power to police the world. If it were, we should be intervening in Sudan, Tibet, Belarus, Zimbabwe and every other place where human rights are egregiously violated, not just in Syria because it made TV.

gingerman
gingerman

@sweetpb @MiaFarrow @TIME 

exactly, maybe medicines and protective gear to withstand further Sarin attacks? stuff like that...

steel_881
steel_881

@drkhaledah كلج ذوق واسلوب ومشكوره على الادعية الحلوة

gingerman
gingerman

@eagle11772 @icolight1 

don't blame dems only, this has been going on under all kinds of administrations..once in power they forget why we elected them...

Airmen82
Airmen82

@ValleyForge @Airmen82 Well first it is not because it made television.  This has been an ongoing conflict for years so for that to be the only reason would be very naïve of anyone.  Also all of the places that you have named does have human rights "egregiously" violated as you so eloquently stated however, they do not pose a threat to America at this time.  I am not saying America should be everywhere nor can we, but I would like to believe that we are smart enough to focus on the most eminent threat.  Lastly military service has everything to do with it because everyone always has opinions about what America should do with their troops when the fact is that less than 1% of Americans serve.  How can you make those types of decisions when you have not lived it?  I for one have been to both Afghan, Iraq, and Korea to name a few.  With that being said I think they should be happy with their starbucks, malls, krispy kremes, and enjoy the freedoms  afforded to them and simply say thank you. 

eagle11772
eagle11772

@gingerman @eagle11772 @icolight1 The Dems are Marxists.  They ONLY worship at the alter of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Uncle Joe Stalin, The Kennedys, The Obamaniac, and Jimmy Carter.  They are Evil.  PURE EVIL.