Monday, September 2, 2013
I don't know what I'd do about Syria if I were president. (Of course, if I were president it would mean the political landscape had changed so much that humans would have already forsworn war, not to mention desire for theocracy in any form.) I do think that President Obama, even if he's wised up by asking for congressional consideration, has mishandled things in many ways, not the least of which is his characterizing the use of nerve gas as a "red line." Practically asking for it. I also don't know whether his dithering (or what can too easily be so characterized as such) is harmful; and, if so, to what and to whom.
But I will say this: I find it highly interesting to watch Congress, and, in particular its most egregious current and former members, react to Obama's sudden interest in following the requirements of our Constitution. I've even wondered if that's been his long-game plan: not to engage in Syria, but to let our teabagging constitutionalists scald in their own brew. Probably not, even though that's what they seem to be doing. Suddenly, when faced with the possibility of making a tough and important decision and being on the record for it; when required to do something of consequence rather than posturing for their base by producing meaningless votes against the Affordable Care Act while lying about it, they seem a little squeamish, don't they? Outraged, is what they are. Trying to figure out how and where to hide. Suddenly yelling about the president seems like just what it's been: a dodge; a duck and cover; an avoidance of meaningful action and doing their actual job. So much easier to demand consultation on the assumption he won't do it. Like the dog that caught the car, they don't know what the hell to do, now.
Peter King, paragon of perfidy, thinks the president, in requiring that Congress do its constitutional duty, is "abdicating his responsibility." Joe Lieberman, who never met a war he didn't like as long as he wasn't in it, thinks such behavior is unprecedented. "Never saw anything like it," he droops. Which might well be true: this is the first time in decades a president has suggested Congress has such an obligation. Sure, Congress "approved" the Iraq debacle; but, per usual, it was not a declaration of war. Nor, probably, would there be one in the current situation. (Rand Paul is against an attack because it might kill Christians. In fact, he's kinda okay with Assad because he's only killing Muslims.)
But there should be, if war is what's to be. Or are we at the point where we'd rather let a president fire off missiles at whomever and whatever, whenever he wants, even absent imminent threat? And call it something, but not "war."
It'll be interesting, probably frustrating, likely depressing, and quite possibly laughable watching Congress if they actually do debate the issue, and put it to a vote. Gonna be a lot of previous loudmouths suddenly finding themselves needed elsewhere. Put up or shut up. Is your toughness on terror or your disdain for the black guy stronger? Will you be able to state reasons, either way?
Guess we'll find out. For that, I'm grateful to President Obama. For screwing it up previously, not so much.
Meanwhile, despite, like any thinking person, feeling horrified that anyone would use chemical weapons on anyone, much less his own people, I can't help believing that doing nothing (were it not for the red line mess) is better than intervening, especially unilaterally. Even if it's only the lobbing of a few missiles, it's impossible to game the consequences, not only in Syria but throughout that part of the world and across the globe. With or without gas, it's a civil war in a fractured country; innocents are dying by many means. It's an awful thing; as was our own civil war. But, in the abstract at least, and possibly too cold-heartedly, it seems such wars have to play out on their own terms. Unless it's such an atrocity, as in Rwanda for example, that the whole world rises up and ends it. Which it didn't.
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