Good news on Syria. Really! Obama is backing out. For some time, he has claimed that legally he can do whatever the hell he wants. When he was a candidate, however, Obama had a very different opinion. Note how that works. It isn’t that Obama got into office and finally had a chance to read the Constitution and its interpretations, and figured out, “Oh, I was wrong!” As people are fond of bring up all the time he was a constitutional law professor. So it is just that once he got the power he changed his mind. Power corrupts even boy scouts like Obama.
But this Syria bombing campaign seems to be different than the Libyan bombing. In Libyan, Obama didn’t get Congressional approval because, as we all know, Obama can kill anyone he likes without asking permission. (This is different from, say, minting a trillion dollar coin to save our economy from radical Republicans; that would actually make things better, so Obama can’t do it.) Now Obama claims that we really need to have a “debate” about the bombing.
This is good news, but it still annoys me. After all, if the situation is Syria is so clear as Secretary Kerry has said, what is there to debate? But of course, there is a whole lot to debate. It is just that Kerry is showing himself to be a much greater jackass than we had ever thought. I’m sure this part of the administration’s plan. Kerry was supposed to out in public braying like a donkey in heat to see if it would turn the country back to those halcyon days of 1990 and 2003. Quick! Who does this remind you of:
This decision by Obama puts him in a much better place. First, it extends the amount of time before he has to bomb. In that time, maybe cooler heads will prevail or maybe the nation will lose interest. Maybe John Kerry will shut the fuck up? Second, Congress may pull a Parliament and vote not to give authorization. And third, even if they do give him authorization, he gets more political cover. None of this will change the fact that it is an illegal act of war. But who cares about such things? Certainly not American presidents who can commit any war crimes they like without having to worry about being held accountable.
Any day that we don’t attack is another day that we aren’t killing people in Syria. Given that the Syrian government is likely to react to an attack by killing more people, this is unquestionably good. As I noted last night, Obama is being very weak in this whole thing. But if he’s going to be weak, this is the way to do it. Better a weakling than a weak bully.
Update (31 August 2013 8:11 pm)
Samuel Knight has done an excellent job running the Political Animal blog today. He’s been writing about Syria a lot. He is highly (but reasonably) cynical about the administration, Obama to Ask Congress for Permission to Bomb Syria—Let the Repulsive Horse Trading Begin. We exchanged email where I said that I hoped he was wrong but that if it weren’t, it would be the perfect storm of clusterfucks: domestic and international. He responded that he hoped he was wrong too. But hope only takes you so far.
The New York Times just published an article that pulls me in two directions, President Pulls Lawmakers Into Box He Made. On the one hand, the subtext seems to be that Obama just really doesn’t want to bomb Syria. On the other hand, he was arguing that he wanted to get Congress’ approval in case he later needed to attack Iran. In addition to this, it seems that all of the people surrounding Obama are keen to attack Syria. This is pretty bad if the only one in the White House with any reluctance about this is Obama himself. That is, of course, assuming that the whole “leaked” story isn’t just bullshit.