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September 5, 2013

Ironies in Washington

Blaine R. Young

I think what is going on right now in Washington is fascinating. A president, who ran for office (twice) as the “anti-war” candidate, has put on a full court press with Congress to obtain approval for a military strike on Syria. And his opposition is coming from an extraordinary combination of interests.


The most conservative of Republicans and most liberal of Democrats seem to be the most opposed to a military strike on Syria. The conservatives, like Sen. Rand Paul (KY), are flashing their libertarian credentials for the Republican primary in 2016. They oppose most all United States intervention in foreign affairs, and are reminiscent of the isolationists between the two World Wars of the last century. And, of course, the most liberal in Congress would just want to disband the military, and take all the money spent on national defense and give it to people who don’t want to work.


But what really amazes me is how President Barack Obama can completely ignore things he has said and done in the past, and pursue this option without international support.


During the two incursions into Iraq, the United States was supported by a broad international coalition, and also had the support of the United Nations. There is no chance this time of U.N. support, since Russia holds a veto. Nonetheless, the president presses on.


Also, both times we went into Iraq we had the British right there by our side. Not this time. The British Parliament voted to prohibit the government from taking part in any action against Syria. I guess, thanks to the Obama Administration, we now have a new definition of the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain.


And, does anyone else find it ironic that not too long after we were changing the name of “French fries” to “American fries,” the French are the staunchest supporters of the president’s proposed military action in the Middle East. Their trigger finger suddenly is itching. Like I’ve always said, the only thing that doesn’t change is that everything changes.


My primary concern about all this is that we have some sort of achievable goal, announce what it is, achieve it and get out. I’m not sure what the goal is, and I haven’t heard anyone in Washington articulate a clear objective for this proposed strike. We are being told that we are not trying to influence the Syrian civil war, we are not seeking regime change, but that there must be a “response” to the use of chemical weapons.


Fine. But, if all we do is respond, and it doesn’t amount to anything, does it mean anything?


The president says he has the authority to embark on this military campaign without the consent of Congress. I would tend to agree, as I don’t see what is being proposed as a “war,” provided we do a quick hit and get out.


And I do understand why the president would go to Congress if for nothing else than to assign more legitimacy to his plans. But the question is, what will be the impact on the next president who has to respond quickly to an international situation, since President Obama has set the precedent of consulting with Congress first?


We will just have to stay tuned.


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