President Obama has put the ball of whether or not to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people into Congress’s court. In his solicitation of Congressional authorization, Obama has made a 360 degree turn-around from his previous stance and willingness to “go it alone.”
When Obama announced his latest decision to have Congress decide the argument over if the U.S. should attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons or not, days of military mobilization were put on a momentary hold.
On August 21, the latest alleged use by the current regime of Syria of chemical weapons, over 1,000 of its own people were killed. Among the victims were over 400 children.
Despite Obama’s senior aides stating that the president could legally order military strikes against Syria without first asking for Congressional approval, he has appeared to have changed his mind in light of the English parliament’s vote to not act as an ally of the United States in an attack against Syria.
It also marked a jarring shift as president for Mr. Obama, whose senior aides have been saying that he would not seek congressional authorization and that he had the legal right to order the start of military strikes.
Congress won’t return to vote on the matter until September 9. Legislative leaders will hold a debate and following that, vote on the decision to attack Syria. The Senate is considering the possibility of returning before then to vote, though both houses must pass any resolution before action might be taken.
By agreeing to have Congress decide on the issue, President Obama faces the possibility that he will have his plan to retaliate against Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons rejected, like what happened when the British parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to ally with the United States.
In spite of Preident Obama’s remarks, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister, Kadri Jamil, stated that Syrian forces would continue their current state of being on high alert. Also, he said that if attacked, Syria would retaliate.
The delay could work to President Obama’s favor, allowing him time to gather international support and ensure France’s alliance against Syria. France has indicated that it would be an ally of the United States in any action taken against Syria.
President Obama, in the Rose Garden on Saturday with Vice President Joe Biden, stated:
I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.”
Obama argued that a failure to act against Syria could cause an escalation to their use of chemical weapons and might encourage others to also resort to using such weapons.
Obama’s statements have drawn a decidely mixed reaction from members of Congress. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) “welcomed” the president’s decision, stating:
The president’s role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress.”
However, other members of Congress, such as Rep. Pete King (R., N.Y.), argued that the move was a sign of weakness:
President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The president doesn’t need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line.”
Though Senator John McCain of Arizona supports action against Syria, he believes that it should be much more decisive and he said the strikes that Obama is proposing won’t be very successful at changing President Bashar al-Assad’s strategy nor his use of chemical weapons.
For days, Congressmen of both parties had demanded that Obama seek the authorization of Congress before he acted. President Obama seemed reluctant to do so until Saturday.
Now that the ball is in Congress’s court, it is their decision if Syria’s alleged used of chemical weapons warrants conducting military strikes or other actions against President Assad’s regime.
Written by: Douglas Cobb