kerry obamaPresident Obama has displayed his skill at strategic thinking on a number of occasions so it is sensible to look at his decisions on retaliatory military action against Syria for using chemical weapons as possibly a “long game”. His reticence against getting involved again in the Middle East in another conflict seems apparent yet he expresses an aggressiveness towards taking action. This has left the question open, “Does he secretly want Congress to refuse support of military action in Syria so he can avoid doing so yet look like he has tried to keep his word on his ‘red line’ warning?”

Despite the arguments in favor of this, President Obama’s actions would seem to indicate that he is earnest in wanting military strikes despite his reluctance.

The theory supporting this proposition is that Pres. Obama is well aware of the dysfunction in Congress, of the inability to get most anything of substance done and the knee-jerk opposition by Republicans to anything he supports. So, when he chose to ask Congress to vote on attacking Syria, he knew full well that at least the Republican-controlled House would block it.

When one consider the timeline of events leading up to his bringing this to a vote in Congress, it doesn’t seem probable that he had intended to do this.

Initially after the chemical attack in Syria, Pres. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke out about the outrageous nature of this attack and the need to respond with punitive force. Pres. Obama began a campaign with the closest allies of the U.S., to bring them on board in supporting and participating in a strike against Syria.

If he had truly opposed such an attack, would pressing U.S. allies to stick their necks out in committing to it make sense? It wasn’t until after the U.K.’s Parliament voted down PM Cameron’s request for the U.K. to ally with the U.S. in an attack that any talk cropped up about Obama having Congress vote on this as well.

The aggressive manner in which Obama, Kerry and others in Obama’s Administration have been pressing for support of this attack also contradicts a desire to avoid an attack.

Pres. Obama has repeatedly supported Presidentially initiated military action during his time in office, in the case of Libya, drone strikes throughout the Middle East and covert operations. While he could not legitimately be compared to the neocons of the Bush Administration, he has proven to be both a supporter of military action when he sees it as justified and Presidential power to order military action without the need for Congressional sanction.

With the world, Congressional and U.S. public opinion opposing his stated desire to take action against Syria, Pres. Obama found himself in a tight spot if he was going to proceed on his own. If Pres. Obama went ahead on his own and ordered military attacks, he would essentially be all alone and solely responsible for whatever happened in Syria or spilled over in the Middle East due to the attack. Politically, that would have been a massively dangerous position to be in. If the American people didn’t support him and anything went wrong, the Republicans who would attack him no matter what would be hugely energized to attack him. And with the chatter of impeachment floating around the GOP recently with no legitimate justification, taking a highly opposed action like this which is disputed as being constitutional or allowed under The War Powers Act, would have looked like political Russian Roulette (with the Russians happily supplying the weapon as they do).

The decision to bring the vote to Congress on attacking Syria seemed to be forced upon Obama in light of the lack of international support and our closest ally going down such a path and being rejected. When we see another country exemplifying their democracy by having a debate and a vote on such an explosive issue, it becomes difficult for an American President to make such a decision in a unilateral, undemocratic way and without substantial political debate.

Sec. Kerry has acted on behalf of the Obama Admin to push hard on getting Congress to approve an attack. The Obama Admin has already won votes in the Senate in support of military action and for a while, it seemed like a good possibility that The House could also approve. Then, Obama would have no choice to proceed.

For all of these reasons, the principle of Occam’s Razor would make sense. The simplest answer is the most probable. Pres. Obama does want to take action in Syria and is fighting to get Congress and the world to support it. If he loses this fight, the banter about this damaging his Presidency seems overblown. No President gets everything they want to happen and especially in such a difficult situation as this with the post-Iraq baggage that justifiably is in place.

What is most interesting is that despite his instincts and opinion, Pres. Obama could be saved from making a very bad decision thanks to the Tea Party-controlled GOP. It is hard for the most powerful nation in the world to stand by while international laws and the Geneva Convention are flouted and innocent people are murdered in mass killings. So, to have said, “None of our business,” from the start would have looked cold, terrible and weak. Obama’s reaction was just what we would expect from any President.

However, if he is blocked from following through on his decision to attack Syria, he may take a number of shots from the Right for failing but where it would leave him, the U.S., Syria and the world could be better.

A bottom line problem with Obama being authorized with attacking Syria is that the first video we’ll see from the Syrians will be of the innocent women and children killed as “collateral damage” by the American attack. At that point, we would lose whatever moral high ground we believe we had to attack and Syrians would be driven to rally with Assad and against the invading child murderers, the United States.

We can’t protect innocent people by killing some of them, that approach may have been American policy in the past but it doesn’t work at this point in time. President Obama was following the tradition of modern day Presidents in pursuing this action but as has been the case in a few other instances like gay marriage, deporting illegal immigrants and pursuing pot busts, Obama seems to be caught a bit behind the curve of where the American people are today.

If the House kills this resolution as they seem likely to (and as they have with most any legislation that’s put in front of them) and as long as Obama doesn’t order an attack despite the lack of Congressional approval (unless the UN miraculously votes for it), responsibility for further atrocities in Syria will lay at the feet of Congress, Republicans will have taken that responsibility away from Obama out of spite and may obliviously help the man they most despise from damaging his presidency and legacy.

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agrippamairsNirekMurphTheSurf3AdLib Recent comment authors
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Ad, I think highly of the President. I hope he is doing what you suggest. I hope it works. Many republicans will vote against anything the President wants. Many democrats will break with him on military action. I oppose the idea of unilateral action. It needs to be a coalition of several nations to strike at Syria.


I agree with you Ad Lib. Occam’s razor!

Obama followed the established path in matters of this kind. The surgical strike has become the go-to club in the closet to beat one’s opponent back. I think he expected that his call to limited arms would be taken up by the usual allies and a few more. After all, doesn’t everyone hate gas…especially when it is used on non-combatants.

Only that did not happen

The Parliamentary vote was interesting.

I recorded the entire Parliamentary Debate to watch the whole thing (I wish we had a Parliamentary system, it is so much more dynamic and responsive).

Those who voted no:
-some did not believe the evidence
-some thought the evidence was incomplete
-some thought the military response was not going to be effective
-some responded to the objections of their constituents- war weary and broke
-some voted straight party- all of Labor basically- against the Conservatives
-some cited having been misled by the U.S. already in this century and not wishing to be misled again.

Intriguing how this reflects the thinking in our own Congress.

Obama had been marching down the road toward military intervention. He paused when he realized that no one was following him. So he turned around and went back up the road to see if he could gather in some followers.

If they do not materialize I do not see him taking that long, lonely walk back down that road.

Instead he will do as you suggest, Ad Lib….stand his ground in terms of the principle, call the world to task if the worst happens (and call Congress to task at the same time) and in the meantime do what can be done in diplomatic and humanitarian streams.


I expect that you are correct.


Hey AdLib,

We know that the Red Line was drawn not by President Obama, but by many countries. The President simply reiterated that he agreed with the Red Line. If he said “his” red line than that probably was a misspeak. Because as I said the term “Red Line” was applied to the usage of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

I don’t know if you saw the President’s Press conference or not. Let me say here (as I have said elsewhere) WH reportercritters are dumbasses. They are an embarrassment. Anyway, after being asked the same question numerous times and answered numerous times, the President said that he knew this was going to be a heavy lift – especially with his own Party. He also noted that Republicans who have been chomping at the bit for military action against Syria, now suddenly oppose military action, OR they want MORE. The President is a smart man. He knows exactly with whom he is dealing.

It has been reported 😀 that the President will NOT engage in any military action if Congress does not approve. Some dumbass reporter asked it that was true, at least three times – even after he said he was not going to respond to hypothetical questions. Then whats-his-face from FOX asked the same question. It was unfreakingbelievable. But of course, President Obama handled these idiots with class and intellect.

Oh, and I cannot believe “progressives” are now taking the word of Putin over President Obama. I know they have aligned themselves with Snowden, Greenwald and Assange, but Putin? Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow (who is still calling the gas attacks as “alleged”) have all given Putin more credibility than President Obama. Ed Schultz (the don’t vote guy) opens every show with “NO WAR”. I can never watch any of these shows all the way through, but I did want to see Secretary Kerry’s interview with Hayes. I just can’t take any more of MSNBC

The Press Conference is up on The Obama Diary and Youtube.


Sabreen, I’ve read so many comments elsewhere of Americans siding with Putin and hoping he will take Obama down, somehow. I never thought I’d see the day.


I was thinking about this situation last night, AdLib. (Way to give yourself nightmares, kes.) And I thought along the same lines. I thnk the Prez did absolutely the right thing in going to Congress.

But — ironically — the best outcome of the Congressional vote might be a thumbs-down. And if I were in the President’s shoes (God forbid.) I would not go ahead and act on my own in that case (a thumbs up would be a different story). For many reasons. The diminishing of the concept of the Imperial Presidency being one of them. And the whole process of forcing the GOP to take responsibility for their rhetoric being another. Then when you throw in maintaining the moral high ground internationally, including the shaming of Assad and Russia, it makes his position — to some degree — even stronger than it was before. Because if Assad continues to do as he’s doing, it will only build momentum and pressure for a truly international response shortly down the road. The whole world would be watching.

In a way I wish the original red line comment had not been made. Not because it’s not true, but because it gives the President’s enemies a little too much leverage. And for a guy with Assad’s personality it seemed to be taken almost as a challenge. (“You think you’re going to tell me what to do? Watch this.”)

I have slim hopes that Assad is going to reform in the near future. And I do believe that a smack-down for this bully is inevitable. But maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be tomorrow, and it doesn’t have to come from our President all alone.

As with so many of us, my thoughts on this topic seem to be evolving daily. Hourly?