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August 31, 2013 3:14 PM Obama to ask Congress for permission to bomb Syria - let the repulsive horse trading begin

By Samuel Knight

President Obama announced today that he will ask Congress for its approval before directly intervening in the Syrian Civil War.

In a brief Rose Garden speech with Vice President Biden by his side, Obama laid out why he thinks the United States should intervene, and why he thinks Congressional approval is important, even though he said he believes he has the authority to act without it.

He told the press that he informed Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell of his decision. The two houses will preside over the debate when Congress reconvenes on September 9.

But his case for war is so riddled with falsehoods and logical fallacies, it’s difficult to see Congress agreeing to this unless the President makes significant concessions in other policy matters.

The two year long-and-counting Syrian Civil War is hardly an emergency needing immediate redress, as the President insists, given that he is willing to wait a full nine days before even starting the Congressional debate.

Nor is it an urgent matter of “national security.” Direct participation in a brutal sectarian conflict would, however, almost certainly create a number of actual “national security” threats in response.

Nor are we exactly neutral observers in this whole affair. Despite his warnings about the “consequences of doing nothing,” the President can breathe a sigh of relief - we’re not “doing nothing.” We’re aiding the rebels and have been actively supporting the subversion of the Assad regime for the past two years.

Nor should President Obama be allowed to say — with a straight face — that this will “not be an open-ended intervention.” Given the region’s volatility, some sort of blowback is a real possibility - what will our response be then?

Nor is it about humanitarianism. There are few independently confirmed reports about the Ghouta attack and we can’t say with absolute certainty who committed the atrocity and to what extent it was based on official orders — a fact that should raise serious red flags over calls for intervention. Not that Assad’s goons aren’t responsible for repugnant crimes. But did we not care when thousands of Kurds recently fled to Iraq, claiming the Nusra Front were decapitating children? Do we really think that these Saudi-financed rebels are going to be champions of humanitarian causes (notice how the President failed to mention the Saudis when rattling off a list of regional allies impacted by the war)? Why haven’t we taken into account the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights findings about the make up of casualties, which “cast[s] doubt on the widely repeated assertion that the government of President Bashar Assad is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the deaths there”?

That the Obama administration lacks credibility on all these issues makes its arguments wholly unbelievable — certainly not airtight casus belli. The President and John Kerry can claim they’re deeply disturbed by infanticide all they want - it’s a claim, however, that’s easily debunked with cursory Googling. This is all about the regional balance of power. It is official policy to support the rebels over negotiations — which, the Obama administration says, can only start without Assad.

Which brings us back to the concessions. The case for war might be flimsy, but the Obama administration is lucky that Congressional Republicans weren’t present when Zeus was handing out the ability to empathize. Chomping at the bit to reverse DOD sequestration cuts, it seems likely that Republicans’ main issues with an intervention in Syria is that the President didn’t want to ask them first and that it could create a shortfall in the Defense budget.

“I cannot support military action in Syria unless the president presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it,” James Inhofe has said. “[Obama] has underfunded overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund, reduced base defense budget, and put into motion sequestration. Our military has no money left.”

Why wouldn’t the President cave on this? He wants to order the military to participate in another unnecessary war. Why wouldn’t he give it a budget that allows for excessive Wars of Choice?

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.

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