Even the First Lady Doesn't Support a Strike on Syria


Let's move … to a different subject
Credit: Phil Roeder / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

It seems clear that President Barack Obama knows he's on the losing side of this effort to call for military strikes on Syria. The president did a rare media blitz last night, hitting several news shows for interviews in his run up for his speech tonight (and who knows what he's going to say tonight given the growing possibility of Syria handing over chemical weapons to Russia). In interviews with PBS and NBC, the president said even Michelle Obama was against war with Syria. Huffington Post has a clip (that does not want to be embedded, it seems):

"If you ask anybody, if you ask Michelle, do we want to be involved in another war? The answer is no," the president said.

When the left calls for war, though, advocates generally act as though it's with great reluctance, so we probably shouldn't read too much into Michelle Obama's resistance. The Obama Administration doesn't want to go to war, either, you see. It has an obligation.

Further in the brief clip, the president says, "For me, the president, to act without consensus in a situation where there is not a direct, imminent threat to the homeland or interests around the world, that that's not the kind of precedent I want to set."

It sounds nice for the president to say he doesn't want to create such a precedent, but we must not forget what we learned about the release of the administration's internal white paper justifying the use of drones to kill suspected terrorists (and those who stand too close to them) in foreign countries. The Obama Administration's definition of "imminent threat" doesn't match any language a normal person would use. Jacob Sullum noted in February:

The "imminent threat" determination is not really a distinct step in the process of authorizing summary execution by drone. "The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future," the paper explains. For example, "where the al-Qa'ida member in question has recently been involved in activities posing an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities, that member's involvement in al-Qa'ida's continuing terrorist campaign against the United States would support the conclusion that the member poses an imminent threat." In other words, identifying someone as a current or past operational leader is pretty much the same as deciding he poses an imminent threat.

We will be live-tweeting the president's speech tonight, so we'll see where he "pivots" to this time. Today's comments by administration officials appearing before a Congressional Armed Services Committee suggests they have doubts this deal with Russia will actually happen. This is possibly true, but not likely to encourage support for military action in Syria by Americans.