Sep 4, 2013

The Syrian Intervention

A military intervention would be considered successful if it accomplishes the following:
Yeah, right!
  1. It destroys existing stockpiles of WMDs;
  2. It cripples Syrian capacity to manufacture or acquire more WMDs;
  3. It drastically reduces the civilian death and injury toll;
  4. It does not weaken either side in the Syrian civil war to allow a change of balance;
  5. It holds the users of chemical weapons accountable for their war crimes;
  6. It persuades the warring sides to seek a political solution;
  7. The USA is seen as a moral force willing to do what is necessary
Any chance that military strikes by Obama will accomplish any of the above?  Possibly some of 1 and 3. At best.

Knowing that without an intervention the conflict will probably yield more deaths and embolden the use of WMDs, while military strikes may result in fewer, but in all probability more deaths, I think Obama should butt out. Do nothing militarily and continue to work towards a political resolution. Or work France, Saudi Arabia or any ally not named Israel, to carry out the limited strikes.

Further, I am not convinced that it was solely Assad who used said chemical weapons. Striking first and then having to explain the error would be doubly disastrous.

Punting it to Congress was the best thing he could have done given a no-win scenario. There is no Kobayashi Maru maneuver to be pulled off. Congress not providing the asked-for AUMF would help the Republicans some in the short term, but will also let Obama off the hook. So this is a variable sum game that helps both.

The most likely outcome is that Congress grants him a largely toothless authorization, he uses it to bomb a few depots, declares "Mission Accomplished" and downplays the messy aftermath. Republicans  gain in the short term because they controlled an overreaching President, but lose in long term because the blatancy of the hypocrisy would not be able to overcome the much desired strike on Iran by the hawks.  

Obama is not running for any office in three years, but enough senior Republicans will be. They balk now, and they shut down all possibility of that Iran strike—something that is absolutely demanded by the corporate war lobby and Israel. Boehner, Cantor, McCain signing on early was to preempt a tea party bloc from wresting control of the conversation. Rand Paul declaring that he will not filibuster makes the authorization that much more imminent.

Expect no more than 35% of House Republicans and 40% of Senate Republicans to vote for this. If a future strike on Iran was not at stake, those numbers would approach zero. Democratic votes for this will come from the non-swing districts and states.

But there will be Congressional authorization. Out of sheer necessity. Imagine that the GOP votes to not authorize force in Syria where there is strong evidence that use of chemical weapons resulted in hundreds of agonizing deaths. What moral or even political ground will the GOP have if it later wants to forcibly stop Iran from going nuclear? They cannot justify why limited strikes in Syria were unacceptable, yet decisive, massive show of force against Iran would be warranted. Preemptively striking an unverified threat would make even less sense, nor would it muster popular support if they denounce acting against Syria today.

Obama almost played into the hands of the GOP. Had he used force, he would have been impeached for violating the Constitution. As it stands, the GOP is angry at being forced to take a stance on this, and mocking "ha ha, the black guy said red line, and his bluff was called" is not working any more than shouting BENGHAZI three times an hour did. Unless he is stupid enough to bomb Syria anyway if Congress denies him the requisite authorization. That will spell disaster for the rest of his term and beyond for the Democrats.

No, it does not mean Obama will not be impeached. That is almost a foregone conclusion.