President Obama's decision to seek congressional support for a limited military strike on Syria is fraught with political and diplomatic risk. The biggest one is that an unlikely coalition of doves, skeptics, isolationists and Republicans who are simply determined to see this president fail will say no. Still, Obama made the right call.
This represents a bold and very welcome departure from the propensity of presidents in recent history to stretch the authority of the executive branch to commit acts of war without congressional consent. Unilateral White House decisions to engage the U.S. military in overseas conflicts have ranged from the Korean War under President Harry Truman to the 2011 NATO air campaign in Libya under Obama.
The pause for debate will require the Obama administration to make a compelling case that the trail of chemical weapons attacks leads directly to Bashar Assad's government. It also will force the president to explain how this military action serves the national interest beyond, of course, preserving the credibility of his "red line" ultimatum. He also must persuade a war-weary nation that the missile strikes won't lead to yet another American entanglement abroad.
During Operation Odyssey Dawn to remove Gaddafi from power in 2011, approximately 110 cruise missiles were fired from US and British ships and submarines that targeted about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast and each cruise missile cost $1.5 million and there were also additional costs for intelligence gathering and special operation forces. The planned strike against Syria would not go that far as it is only intended to send a strong message to Assad after more than 1,400 civilians were killed by the chemical weapons attack. It has a historical precedent and Bill Clinton ordered the firing of 23 cruise missiles to destroy an intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 1993 after a plot to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush was uncovered. It did not require congressional authorisation and there were other cruise missile attacks against al Qaeda targets in the 1990s without specific congressional authorisation. Technically, Obama has the constitutional authority to order a strike without Congress but it's wise to make it as multilateral as possible in order to keep the administration's legitimacy intact after losing British support. House Republicans are likely to authorise it if the White House lays out a detailed plan to assure them that the US will not be drawn into an all-out military conflict in Syria.
**** "As international support for Obama’s decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world," Chomsky told HuffPost in an email. Chomsky recently traveled to the region to learn more about the Syria crisis, and his comments there led some to believe he was open to military intervention if negotiations failed to produce peace. "I believe you should choose the negotiating track first, and should you fail, then moving to the second option" -- backing the rebels -- "becomes more acceptable," he said.
The top elected Republican in Washington, Boehner said following a meeting at the White House that he intended to support Obama’s plan for limited strikes against the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. "I am going to support the president's call for action,” he told reporters. "I believe my colleagues should support this call for action."