Obama must do more to earn Congress’ nod

— Albuquerque Journal

If President Barack Obama is to win the congressional buy-in he seeks for military action in Syria, he and his team need to do a better job of laying out our strategic objectives and what the U.S. stands to gain by intervening.

Using chemical weapons — there is little doubt that has happened, and the victims include innocent Syrian children — is despicable and should not go unchallenged by world powers, even if they are not of one mind on Syria’s civil war itself.

While it might have been better if the United States had approached this decision point months ago when more moderate rebel forces could have benefited and there already were indications of chemical weapons use, it seems clear Syria has now overtly challenged the red line Obama laid down earlier, a line he now wishes to attribute to something he refers to as the “global community.”

Obama has said Syrian President Bashar Assad needs to go, but the proposed military action isn’t designed to produce that result. Besides, the current alternatives for his replacement are not very attractive, either.

On Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to approve a limited military strike. But first they altered the original draft resolution that essentially would have given the administration a blank check. The amended resolution would allow the president to order a limited military mission, but for no longer than 90 days and with no U.S. troops on the ground for combat.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, voted against the watered down resolution. On Tuesday, Udall had raised serious concerns about Obama’s plan. “I see this potential bombing campaign as a potential next step toward full-fledged war,” he said, citing the 2003 invasion of Syria’s neighbor, Iraq. Udall is to be commended for asking some tough questions.

Next week, Congress will be back in session and will take up Obama’s request.

It’s true that the world is watching — especially rogue nations with nuclear ambitions like Iran. But this isn’t about swagger. If Congress is to approve this adventure, it needs to be sure our objectives are clear and attainable. We aren’t going to impress anybody by doing something stupid.

 

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