Obama gambles on getting Congress to green-light war with Syria
By Oliver Knox
In a legacy-defining gamble, President Barack Obama announced Saturday that he has decided to launch military strikes against Syria — but wants the Congress to authorize them.
“In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted,” Obama declared in the Rose Garden 10 days after Bashar Assad’s forces allegedly massacred 1,400 civilians with chemical weapons. “After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” he said, describing himself as “prepared to give that order.”
The president’s hastily arranged remarks — demonstrators protesting outside the White House gates could be heard from the West Wing only minutes before he spoke — sucked the urgency out of what had looked like a imminent military strike.
Instead, cruise missile-carrying warships off Syria’s coast will have to wait until the week of Sept. 9. That’s when Congress returns from a month-long vacation to take up a measure, drafted by the White House, giving Obama the green-light. “I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy,” Obama said. “I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
The president ignored a reporter who shouted the obvious question: What happens if Congress says no?
… It also followed a series of diplomatic setbacks: Russian opposition blocked a path through the United Nations Security Council, and Britain’s parliament shocked the world Thursday by voting against military action. France signed on, but its parliament planned to debate the issue next week. Denied both clear international legal legitimacy and a robust “coalition of the willing,” facing clear public resistance as well as a surprisingly assertive Congress, and trapped by his own declaration that Syria had crossed a “red line,” Obama went from saying he would “consult” Capitol Hill to actively courting its support.