From what I can tell by the response of Democratic and Republican Congesspeople, the legislature and the executive are go on attacking Syria. Several members of our legislature, on the left and right, have made clear that they prefer a timetable, but they still acknowledge that the actual consequences of such an action are uncertain and that we should act sooner rather than later. However, I distinctly recall the right back in the days of invading Iraq eschewing timetables, claiming that they only told the enemy how long to wait until they could reorganize.
Obama is trying to cater to Republicans who he figures would be all about showing their muscle in the Middle East and taking a tough stance. From our lawmakers’ comments on both sides, I’m hearing that they are indeed convinced that Assad has used these chemical weapons. There’s also general acknowledgement that they won’t be getting a lot of assistance from the UN Security Council, due to China and Russia’s veto power. Before, the members of our legislature were asking for more evidence, and it looks like they definitely got that behind closed doors.
Lindsay Graham and John McCain have characterized the president’s anticipated actions as belated. Graham stresses that we need to do something about Syria before Iran tries to. McCain stated that it is “shameful” we have not yet given Syria’s opposition any arms and announced that Iran and Russia are already “sponsoring” Assad’s regime. According to McCain, if Congress does not act now, the consequences would be “catastrophic”. Also, both of these lead Republican senators as well as Obama have been repeating the exact same talking point about “upgrading” the opposition and “degrading” Assad’s regime.
Even though it sounds like the Republicans wanted to attack Syria yesterday (McCain: “We should have done it two years ago”) they also say that we should not do this immediately and that a more concrete plan needs to be outlined. Clearly, Obama would like to go ahead with this as well, yet Graham states “The president has no one to blame but himself about the lack of the public’s understanding on Syria”. Obviously, that’s not entirely true and it seems he only says it to make sure he articulates and adversarial position between the Republicans and the president. You can actually find a lot of video of Obama and other people from the executive, on C-SPAN alone, articulating in no uncertain terms how important it is to do this immediately. It’s this conflicting message, I believe, that they really need to sell to their constituents. They wish to find a way to simultaneously vocalize support for an action Obama is wholly behind as well as cast their support in a way that sounds like they are not in agreement with him.
Who knows how they will pull that off, but if this all ends with us helping random Syrians in the wrong place at the wrong time, then we are doing good for the world and we will win karma points. At the end of the day, we would all absolutely love to know that in the event things get really heated and violent in our neighborhood, there are level people who are prepared to assist. If armed government and armed opposition are going to fight each other for dominance, it’s their prerogative. When such fights spill over into communities that want nothing to do with the fighting, then you are not committing a wrong by forcibly deterring belligerents.