i was going to make a thread but nobody's going to read past the title anyway and theres no video so:
Americans are no longer interested in policing the world, Mr. Obama
However Congress votes on Syrian intervention, the White House will have problems escaping the fallout
After 12 years of endless war; after Afghanistan, after Iraq, after
Libya, after the drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the American
people have had enough. There is perhaps no better explanation for the
rather remarkable situation unfolding right now in Washington. President
Obama has gone to the US Congress to ask for a military authorisation
for the use of force against Syria after its international-norm-breaking
use of chemical weapons against its own people.
Such requests are something of a pro forma exercise for US
presidents. When the commander-in-chief wants to go to war, Congress is
usually happy to comply (if it is even asked for permission, which is
rare). This time, Congress is refusing to bite. Whip counts in the US
House of Representatives indicate overwhelming opposition and not just
among the president’s political opponents in the Republican party but
also among Democrats. Public opinion polls show that a majority of
Americans are strongly against US involvement in Syria.
What is perhaps most surprising about this is that the Obama
administration is seeking authorisation for a rather limited use of
force. It is loudly proclaiming that there will be no US boots on the
ground, no effort at regime change, no direct engagement in the Syrian
civil war – just a few cruise missiles to uphold a global norm and teach
Bashar al-Assad a lesson. Yet, while Obama will speak to the American
people and make his case for military intervention on Tuesday, few
political observers believe he will win the day (though one cannot fully
discount the possibility).
It is an extraordinary turn of events and one that goes so strongly
against the currents of recent history that it may come to represent a
sea change, not just in how the US employs military force in the future
but in the very construct of American foreign policy. No longer, it
appears are Americans and Congress willing to give the
commander-in-chief a virtual blank cheque.
So why is this happening?
Part of the reason is undoubtedly politics. Republicans, who in
recent years have rarely met a military engagement they didn’t
enthusiastically support, would sooner cut off their right arms then
give Obama anything that he actually wants. Yet their opposition to
involvement in Syria also reflects a growing division within
Republicans, between the party’s neoconservative national security elite
and its long-dormant isolationist wing. Indeed, the congressional vote
on Syria may preview a titanic struggle over the foreign policy
direction of the Republican party.
As for Democrats, particularly liberals who opposed the Iraq war and
were ambivalent about the Afghanistan surge, even party loyalty may not
be enough to get them to go along with the White House’s plans. Unlike
Obama, members of Congress will be on the ballot in 2014 and few of them
are going to want to stick their neck out for a military strike that
has little public support.
Beyond the political gamesmanship, opposition is due in large measure
to the fuzziness of the White House’s strategic plan. While norm
enforcement and deterring future chemical attacks can be a justifiable
rationale, the idea that the US would engage Syria over one category of
weapons while doing nothing to stop the civil war that has taken 100,000
lives seems to many to be illogical. Moreover, the lack of clear
strategic objectives, or a vital US national interest or even a fallback
plan if Assad is not deterred from continuing to gas his people, is
raising real doubts about the efficacy of intervention. And truth be
told: the White House has done a dreadful job of making the case for
In August 2012, Obama laid down his infamous red line about the use of chemical weapons on Syria.
Everyone assumed this meant that the US would engage militarily. But in
the year since, he has made virtually no effort to prepare the public
for that possibility. There was, from all appearances, little private
consultation with Congress lining up support for a possible response and
the administration position on Syria has long oozed with indifference
about US involvement.
But when videos appeared showing hundreds of Syrians lying dead from
an apparent chemical attack, the administration grabbed the biggest
hammer in the toolbox and immediately started talking about launching
cruise missiles and dropping bombs on Damascus. They completely misread
the public’s appetite for yet another war and were further blindsided by
David Cameron’s stunning failure to properly manage a parliamentary
vote authorising British involvement in a military strike.
Obama’s decision to go to Congress for authorisation reflected
belated recognition of the emerging political reality and, at the time,
looked like an inspired political move. But confidence that Congress
would obediently go along with the president’s plan (if one wants to be
generous and call it that) was misplaced. Faced with growing
congressional opposition, the administration is now taking the low road
of fearmongering that a failure to punish Assad will embolden Iran, put
Israel in danger or perhaps allow chemical weapons to fall into the
hands of terrorists.
The White House finds itself in a political no-man’s-land. Winning a
vote in Congress will mean squandering political capital and twisting
Democratic arms – all in pursuit of a military strategy that will, by
the White House’s own admission, do little to stop the bloodletting in
Syria. Lose the vote and risk becoming a weakened lame duck three years
before Obama’s second term is up. Of course, Obama could ignore
Congress, but then he risks entering into impeachment territory.
Yet, for all the short-term political fallout, the apparent train
wreck on Syria might be the best thing to happen in American politics in
a long time.
Since 11 September 2001, armchair generals (inside and outside
government) have planned one military engagement after another and
confidently predicted success – and then dodged accountability after
repeated failures. The result has been quagmire after quagmire,
trillions of dollars in costs and tens of thousands of dead and maimed
Those chickens have come home to roost. No matter how defensible the
plan for military action in Syria might be; no matter how strong the
impulse to punish the use of long-banned weapons; no matter how many
assertions of limited engagement are made, Americans and their
representatives in Congress appear finally resistant to buying the
war-makers’ tonic (some might say 10 years too late).
The desire of America’s foreign policy elite to continue to demand
that the US remain the indispensable nation and the world’s policeman
has come face to face with a public tired of war and tired of foreign
policy failure. And the American people look poised to win this round.