Syria is Not Iraq, Congressional Authorization Edition

Few argued George Bush didn't need it to use military force in Iraq


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In 2002, President Bush pressed Congress to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, which his administration argued had possession of weapons of mass destruction. The war was a culmination of several decades of US policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and specifically of US policy from the First Gulf War (which Wesley Clark, incidentally, says the situation with Syria should be compared to) onward. In the 80s, Hussein's Iraq was a useful ally against the then just formed Islamic Republic of Iran, against which Iraq fought a decade-long war. The US even helped Iraq knowing the Hussein regime had used chemical weapons and would do so again.. After the First Gulf War, the US set up a no-fly zone over portions of Iraq (to prevent the use, for example, of chemical weapons against Kurds or Shi'ites) and a sanctions regime against the country. In 1998, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change in Iraq official US policy. Clinton also ordered periodic bombings of facilities in Iraq related to supposed Iraqi intransigence with UN inspectors, of the kind that led to the escalation preceding the 2003 Iraq War..

Despite a long-standing US policy toward regime change in Iraq, few argued in 2002 that President Bush didn't need authorization for the use of military force in Iraq from the Congress. "Because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment I will vote to give the president the authority he needs," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said as he helped deliver a 77-23 vote in favor of that authorization from a Democratic-controlled Senate.

Now, President Obama, who unilaterally declared chemical weapons use in Syria would constitute a "red line," is seeking authorization from Congress to take military action in response to a chemical weapons attack the US says the Syrian regime is responsible for. But he says he doesn't need that authorization. Obama's "coalition of the willing" started coming apart when the Parliament of the United Kingdom took a non-binding vote against British intervention in Syria. The French, fresh off a military intervention in Mali to expel Islamist militants partially enabled by the post-intervention chaos in Libya, are still eager to strike against Syria, but they are increasingly alone. The UN chief has warned intervention in Syria could lead to more turmoil.

Even though he says he doesn't need the authorization (following his own precedent in Libya in 2011 and Bill Clinton's in Kosovo in 1999), President Obama is busy personally lobbying members of Congress for support on Syria. He's got Boehner's support, and says he's confident Congress will vote in favor of military action, though some members of Congress on both sides are skeptical.

Syria is not Iraq, supporters of Obama's desire to intervene in Syria like to say—they have better evidence, they don't "intend" to put boots on the ground, and the president is "war weary." And where President Bush knew he needed Congressional authorization to respond militarily to what he eventually argued was an "imminent threat" from Iraq, President Obama doesn't think he needs Congressional authorization to act in response to the crossing of a red line he drew and no other body endorsed. The US war in Iraq was a tragedy, the march toward war in Syria so far is a travesty.

NEXT: Biden Cancels Trip to Florida

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  1. when the Parliament of the United Kingdom took a non-binding vote against British intervention in Syria

    I heard some Labor Party schlub on NPR today say that they need to take another vote now. He said they didn’t really mean no force when they voted no force, just no force that day. And that now it was different, so they needed another vote.

    1. Keep calling votes until you get the result you wanted. It’s the democratic way.

    2. After the uprising of the 17th June
      The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
      Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
      Stating that the people
      Had forfeited the confidence of the government
      And could win it back only
      By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?

      Bertolt Brecht

      1. My favorite commie by far.

  2. the president is “war weary.”

    Time for yet another “war to end all wars”, I suppose.

    1. Time for another vacation.

      1. I know, but I can’t afford it.

        Oh — you meant the president, didn’t you?

    2. if only he were more war wary

      1. To be fair, he probably is pretty war weary. It’s got to be tiring to wage them so much. Maybe this is the one that will tire him out enough to stop.

    3. So weary. His eyes fight to shut out the horrors he has seen. His shoulders sag from bearing the weight of the Republic. His hands ache from the endless demanding work of imposing control and death.

      He can barely look up from his desk. He struggles to lift the phone. His voice is a gravelly whisper as he orders the destruction of what is probably a Syrian weapons depot. He slumps back in his high leather chair, looks out onto the White House garden and thinks idly about how great this nation could be if only they wouldn’t force him to do things that only end up hurting themselves.

      1. You would be weary too if you had spent the last five years fighting off the Christian Taliban, the Teathuglicans, the Obstructionist Republicans and the economic terrorists holding the nation and the debt limit hostage.

        1. I saw the Obstructionist Republicans in concert back when they started touring in the 80s. If you think they’re good now, you should have heard them live.

          1. The irony of someone hipstering about Republicans is just grand. Thank you.

            1. I’m shocked that the greater Portland area didn’t vote en masse for Romney as part of their commitment to ironic detachment.

          2. What Neo Koch said

      2. Oh he may be weary.
        Them leaders they do get wearied,
        Wagging that same old shaggy press, yeah yeah.
        But when he gets weary
        Try a little drone process, yeah yeah.

  3. This time it is different. The Democrats who want to attack Syria are not sullied by the motive of protecting the oil monopolist. Their motives are pure without entangling economic interest. They only want to do the right thing for the right reason. Given that is the case, there will be no fallout (perhaps in the literal sense), blow back or negative consequences that come through starting a war with tainted motives. Everything will be alright so long as we don’t mussy this up with impure thoughts.

    1. If only there was some act of public self flagellation to demonstrate this…

    2. Yeah, thank god there’s no risk of gaining anything through military action here, people might get the wrong idea.

  4. Clearly, perpetual war in the goal of career politicians, both team blue and team red.

    Anyone who votes for this, with overwhelming opposition from the public, needs to get their asses primaried and voted out of office next election. And as unpopular as it is now, it’s almost guaranteed to be less popular by the next elections.

    1. Assad will be safely out and all chemical weapons destroyed by then. We won’t even have to boycott the winter Olympics, either. You’ll see…

      1. Not without the rumors that the chemical weapons had been transported to some other country, so we will have an excuse to bomb them in 10 years. And this gives cover to the “where’s Assad’s chemical weapons?” assholes who just can’t be satisfied with intentions.

    2. You’re starting to sound like some crazy teabagger or something. Governments being accountable to the people who uphold it? How quaint.

      1. Governments being accountable to the people

        Well Mr Smartypants, why do they call it the US Government then?

        1. ‘Cause *Uncle Sam*, duh!

        2. The magazine of the same name?

  5. Good Lord, the Peter King quote:

    . However, the announcement also raised the question about whether the president put the burden on Congress to act.

    “President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander in chief and undermining the authority of future presidents,” said New York Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “The president doesn’t need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line.”

    New York, stop that shit. Stop it right now. You know that IRA fellator has no business being in an American congress, and hardly any being on the very continent, and here he shows he doesn’t even know the very basics of the job description he’s been at for more years than I care to look up.

    1. Is there some kind of contest between CA and NY that the rest of us don’t know about? Because, if so, I’d like to nominate my own state of MD as a very, very strong third contestant.

      1. I lived there for 2 years. Moving to NH was the best decision I made while there.

    2. Shorter Peter King: Herpa-derp!! Derp-derp! Derrrrppp! Herpa!

  6. How about if Congress holds off on its votes until it can interview the Benghazi survivors?

    1. Haha, you make a funny!

    2. What difference, at this point, would it make?

  7. well, it is “his military”, so he should be able to do whatever he wants with it…

  8. It’s too bad that Clinton wasn’t impeached for Kosovo rather than for an intern hummer.

  9. This looks pretty clear to me. And I have yet to see one poll where the majority supports any military involvement in Syria.

    Majority opposed to any military action in Syria

    I think a lot of folks, myself included thought that liberals would roll over and support this because it’s Obama. We were wrong. There is strong bi-partisan opposition to this stupidity.

    Funny that one time there was a day when a leader declared war, they led their people into the battle, getting at the very front of the conflict.

    Now, our leaders declare a stupid war, opposed by the people, that has no possibility to gain anything for the country, and they cower in some air conditioned office while our young people die for nothing.

    Cowards, everyone who votes for this is a coward.

    1. But, Hyperion, why do you oppose providing air support to Al Quaeda? For the children!

  10. I do hope that Boehner is just calling Obama’s bluff here.



  11. This makes me think of “Go Go Gophers”

    “Here comes the Colonel
    and his Sergeant!
    Both are a roarin’
    and a chargin’!

    What can two Indians Syrians do?

    Hoopy doopy! We have fun!

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