The ongoing Syria crisis would almost be comical if it weren’t so ironic – and if American blood, treasure and standing in the world were not also at stake.
As President Obama inches toward some sort of allegedly punitive military action against Syria’s President Bashar Assad for his administration’s alleged use of chemical weapons against rebels seeking to remove him from power (and the inevitable civilian collateral damage), the ironies keep piling up.
The first and most blatant is the president’s surprise announcement last week that he would seek the authorization of Congress to strike Syria.
It is refreshing at one level for the president to “agree completely” that the approval of the “people’s representatives” is necessary for him to do or not do anything, although that is yet another irony – more on that in a moment.
But this declaration came after several days of declarations from Secretary of State John Kerry and various other aides to media outlets that the president had the constitutional power to act alone – that he did not need the approval of Congress, and that he intended to act forthwith because the need to punish Syria for its “moral obscenity” was “urgent.”
Now, suddenly, it’s fine to give Assad another couple of weeks to move his weapons and munitions out of harm’s way and to move “volunteer” civilians into harm’s way, so that if the U.S. ever does get around to firing a few missiles at pre-announced targets, there will be plenty of video of the charred remains of innocents slaughtered by the Great Satan.
More likely, as is obvious to numerous observers on both the left and right, this has nothing to do with respect for Congress.
It is once again all about him – the president is looking for political cover. If he gets the endorsement of Congress and something goes wrong, he will point to legislators. If they say no, he will blame Congress in general and Republicans in particular, for tying his hands that he said earlier were not tied.
As noted earlier, it is also both ironic and amusing for Obama to give any weight at all to the legislative branch, which he has consistently treated, in both word and deed, with contempt. He has spent years ignoring not only the will of the “people’s representatives” but also any laws they pass or don’t pass that he finds inconvenient or not to his liking. His mantra has been, “If Congress will not act, I will.”
If Congress doesn’t pass immigration legislation he desires, he does it by unilateral executive order. If Congress doesn’t repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, he announces he will stop enforcing it. If some provisions of his signature law – Obamacare – might damage him politically, he unilaterally delays their implementation until after the mid-term elections.
As Brit Hume, of Fox News, put it, “Now (Obama) finds himself going hat in hand to obtain authority he had said he doesn’t need to engage in the kind of unilateral intervention he once decried.”
Then there is Obama’s “red line,” which, ironically enough, he suddenly claimed was no longer his red line. It is the world’s red line – humanity’s red line. Oh, the humanity!
It’s just that the inconvenient reality of audio and video undermines his effort to impose his reality distortion field on the rest of us. A year ago in August, the president said, “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
There was nothing in that statement about Congress, the international community, the world or humanity.
Daniel Harper, writing in the Weekly Standard, also noted that an “unnamed White House official” said this past April in a conference call with reporters, “Keep in mind that he (Obama) is the one who laid down that (red line) marker.”
Along the same line, there is the irony of Obama claiming that this is the world’s red line when nobody else in the world except the French is calling for military consequences against Assad. He can’t even get the support of our most steadfast ally – Great Britain.
There is the irony of the administration being so focused on punishing Assad for the use of chemical weapons when, as a number of historians have noted, the U.S. didn’t make much of a fuss back in the 1980s when Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran. True, Ronald Reagan, a Republican, was the president then – Obama was decades away from taking office. Still, if the “credibility” of the U.S. is at stake in such a circumstance, surely it has been shattered for nearly 30 years.
And, of course, there is the irony of Kerry, who launched his political career 42 years ago by smearing his fellow Vietnam soldiers, now advocating what he scorned when former Secretary of State Colin Powell was making the case for invading Iraq.
This is the John Kerry who said, while running to unseat President George W. Bush in 2004, that U.S. military intervention in another country should require “a global test.”
Now Kerry is insisting that the U.S. should go it alone because of a moral imperative that hardly any other nation is willing to support, let alone enforce.
So much for “community” for the community organizer. If Obama finds himself isolated, both domestically and internationally, it is thanks to his own doing.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org