June 17, 2024

Dithering is not an option


Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Dithering is not an option

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Unlike military responses to an attack or imminent threat, military actions of choice tend not to be popular even if they are the right thing to do. That is why the War Powers Resolution of 1973 was passed to allow the president authority to use military force for 90 days before seeking congressional approval. This fits with the president’s prerogatives in the realm of foreign policy. It is a realm where time is not on the side of democratic debate and much of the information cannot be released to influence such debates.

It is in this context that President Obama’s approach to the Syrian use of chemical weapons is flawed. He said such use crossed a “red line,” but then he went into full consensus mode, seeking approval from legislative bodies at home and abroad. The result was predictable. U.S. and allied citizens generally oppose a military response. Legislators began to waver. Some are old-line isolationists, but many others are simply listening to their constituents. And when the British Parliament rejected the military option, things began to unravel. One by one, U.S. legislators are beginning to peel off.

Further, White House leaks appear to be providing the type and timing of targets. And as more time passes, an unspoken statute of limitations seems to indicate too much time has passed between the chemical attacks and our punitive response.

And even if the president were to suddenly recapture his prerogatives and launch a strike, the question posed would be: What is the objective, by which we mean goal, not target? There is still time to salvage the situation. The president should take a cue from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and revert to his original pronouncement that Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, must go. That is a worthwhile objective, as is the defeat of rebels loyal to al-Qaeda.

To accomplish these attainable goals, we recommended the establishment of a no-fly zone over a region of rebel-held territory, where we could arm, feed, house, and cloth non-al Qaeda rebels. This would run counter to the resolution passed by the Senate Foreign relations Committee, which would severely limit the duration of the action. But the president is not bound by that resolution. Rather, he is bound by a duty to perform the duties of his office as established by the Constitution, laws, and precedents.

If, instead, he continues on his present path, Obama will weaken the presidency and his and America’s stature around the world. He can act or not act. Dithering is not an option.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.


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