Regardless of whether you think Congress should support or oppose President Obama’s request for authorization to conduct air strikes against Syria, it seems most of us can agree that this has not been the President’s finest hour. I have supported the President’s handling of a number of issues – but I can’t on this one.
Almost exactly one year ago he told Syrian President Assad that there was a “red line” if chemical weapons were used by the Damascus regime, and should that dictator dare cross it, there would be dire consequences inflicted by the United States. President Obama followed up with a warning that he doesn’t “bluff.”
But, as the awful pictures coming from Syria have vividly driven home, President Assad’s government did exactly that, using chemical weapons to gas over 1,000 innocent men, women and children. President Obama responded by seemingly reversing course, now seeking permission from Congress to carry through with his threats (notably, after he had already made them.) This is the same dysfunctional Congress that the President knows has been incapable of agreeing to virtually anything.
Unfortunately, the President looks indecisive and unsteady in the eyes of the most dangerous region in the world. The stakes are high as Iran (one of Syria’s biggest supporters) judges how resolute the U.S. is in trying to prevent them from becoming a nuclear power and more direct threat to Israel.
If the President was going to require Congress’s approval to carry out any actions against Syria’s brutality, he should have obtained it well before he made such public threats. As I write, teams of lobbyists, including many of whom are not friends of the U.S., have descended on Washington to influence Congress one way or the other. Apparently, even Russia is sending a team to make their case.
So what is Israel to think? What does this mean for the potential of a nuclear Iran? The President’s delay and mismanagement regarding Syria expose Israel’s vulnerability and raises the question of whether that nation stands alone. If President Obama is truly committed to preventing a nuclear Iran as he states, then one can only conclude that he should obtain Congress’ permission nowto carry out that policy as well. Neither Israel nor the U.S. can afford to suffer from hollow promises or unapproved threats. If so, a dangerous situation could become much worse and it would appear that Israel stands alone.