WASHINGTON, September 3, 2013 — House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Whip Eric Cantor have decided to support President Obama’s decision to launch a limited military action against Syria. They will begin preparing the ground for that with their caucus as soon as the president and Congress return to Washington on September 9.
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Boehner’s announcement, but added that she does not believe the president needs to ask Congress to commit the United States to an act of war.
Boehner said he would “support” the president’s military intervention.
Cantor said in a statement, “Understanding that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle, it is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action, and I hope he is successful in that endeavor.”
Cantor knows that there is plenty of opposition to another war among the general population, but he hopes that won’t get in the way of congressional approval of a military strike. The administration has yet to lay out its plans for such a strike.
While the president is in St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, will make Obama’s case to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Others who will testify before the friendly committee are Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
We’re already there: boots are on the ground.
According to a New York Times report, the president revealed that a CIA-trained 50-man cell of rebels is being infiltrated into Syria to help unidentified anti-government forces there. Those 50 were referred to as “the first,” implying that there are more groups of American-trained insurgents in the pipeline. Their goals and rebel-group affiliations were not disclosed.
So far, the only details the president has made public are that he can order a strike any time within the next month; that his plan does not at this time include sending American troops, only guerilla fighters; that any attack will be a stand-off affair, presumably from the U.S. Navy destroyers now in the Mediterranean; that the attack will last a few days at most; and that the object is not regime change.
That’s enough information for President Assad to do some planning and move some assets. In addition, the U.S. is giving him a long-enough time window to get the redeployment done. If Assad is the one who ordered the use of chemical weapons — the actual perpetrator has not yet been indentified — he would probably reposition such weapons in civilian areas.
Can this be salvaged, to Obama’s advantage?
Fortunately, the delay also gives time for some face-saving negotiations to take place. Though Russia’s Vladimir Putin and President Obama are carrying on a personal public feud, their philosophies and objectives, both broadly and specifically on the Syria question, are largely in alignment.
It is quite possible that side meetings at the G20 Summit could allow some of Obama’s “additional flexibility” that he gained after his re-election to work out a private bilateral deal with Putin to avoid any attacks, putting Obama’s star back in the heavens. In the meantime, Congress will make all the points necessary to save their own face. They will approve Obama’s planned action, and then, in a surprise move, Obama and Putin will announce an agreement that makes the attack unnecessary.
That would be good for Obama, good for Putin, good for American-Russian relations, and good for the world. Only Congress would look like fools.
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