No War in Syria

It's time for Obama to back down from his ill-conceived and unnecessary call for war.


Tonight, President Obama, who rose to the presidency on the strength of stirring speeches, goes back to the well with a prime-time address urging Congress to authorize an attack on Syria.

He admits it'll be "a heavy lift." And how: per the Washington Post's latest whip count in the House, even if all 170 undecideds break their way, the administration won't be within shouting distance of a majority.

That's good, because the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that's on the table deserves to fail. It's TARP with Tomahawks.

The provisions purporting to restrict the president to a brief, "limited and tailored" war are too weak to stick.

What's more, they're undermined by the AUMF's gratuitous overstatement of presidential power: "The President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States."

Wrong. The Constitution gives him the power to "repel sudden attacks" against the U.S., not launch them whenever he imagines they'll promote our "national security interests." That language practically invites Obama to ignore the limits and wage a wider war.

"Parliament has spoken," UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the House of Commons rejected airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to insist that "the president has the power" to wage war without Congress.

So what happens next? If President Obama loses the vote and launches airstrikes anyway, he should be impeached.
Impeachment was designed as "an essential check," Hamilton explained, "upon encroachments of the executive."

Past congresses have missed plenty of opportunities to use that power as intended, but it's never too late to start.

Back in 1974, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., drafted an article of impeachment based on President Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia, carried out in "derogation of the power of the Congress to declare war."

That charge didn't make it into the final articles, but it should have. As war powers scholar John Hart Ely once put it:
"I'd have impeached him for it. Surely it would have been a more worthy ground than the combination of a third-rate burglary and a style the stylish couldn't stomach."

True, other presidents have gotten away with unauthorized war-making, including most recently, Obama himself, with the 2011 "kinetic military action" in Libya.

That's an excuse that won't get you out of a speeding ticket, and it shouldn't hold for a grave violation of constitutional principle.

I doubt it will come to that, however. Last week, as the intensity of public opposition became clear, the White House started signaling its reluctance to go it alone.

On Friday, deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said it's "neither [Obama's] desire, nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him"; "I'm not itching for military action," Obama echoed.

Privately, White House aides say that if the vote fails, bombing is "almost unthinkable."

If, after Congress has spoken, the president holds his fire, the less thoughtful members of the political class will bray that he's weak.

Maureen Dowd got an early start with a contemptuous column in Sunday's Times: "When it came time to act as commander-in-chief, he choked," reverting to "Barry, editor of the Harvard Law Review."

It's a measure of how depraved our constitutional culture has become that even members of Congress, like Rep. Peter King, R-New York, condemn the president for "weakness" because he asked for a vote.

But Americans who care about the rule of law should take a broader view. Whatever Obama's reasons, this once, he'll have done the right thing and, perhaps, made it more difficult for future presidents to do wrong.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.

NEXT: DCCC Chair: GOP Opposition to Syria Intervention Part of a "Civil War," Won't Affect 2014 Elections

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  1. Maureen Dowd got an early start with a contemptuous column in Sunday’s Times: “When it came time to act as commander-in-chief, he choked,” reverting to “Barry, editor of the Harvard Law Review.”

    Even Dowd has a full-on warboner when her Team is in charge. I’m only slightly surprised about this.

    1. Mostly they just want a Great Man to lead them, even if it’s over a cliff.

    2. This is actually the best job Ive had. I work at Home with Google. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Moreover, My Uncle Carson got a stunning gold Porsche Cayenne Hybrid only from working part time off a pc. Official website

  2. From tonight’s remarks:

    “What the…? YOU people love war! I finally come around and now you are AGAINST it? It’s because I’m black, isn’t it? ISN’T IT? “

  3. yay! Another speech – in the past those have worked out so well, right?

    It’s “One Trick” Obama, with his magical flea performers.

    1. when all you have is messaging, everything becomes a messaging problem.

      That’s okay; I’ve seen a couple of sites where the liberati have convinced themselves that Obama has totally called the tune on this one, maneuvering Putin into some corner.

      1. If the sun came up tomorrow, there would be some lefties to praise Obama for negotiating it.

        1. “Opening on Broadway: Annie, starring Michele Obama as Annie, and Barack Obama as Daddy Warbucks. The sun’ll come out…tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, Barack will raise the sun…”

          1. Almanian says: “So good, I saw it TWICE!”


      2. This was all over the news this morning too. The official spin seems to be that Kerry’s statement about giving up the weapons was intentional maneuvering to hand this over to the Russians.

        Surprisingly, this was met with a bit of eye-rolling even by some of the non-Fox reporting and commentary I saw. I didn’t see any mainstream stations dismiss it as an obvious fig-leaf to cover a gaff, but I did hear at least a couple of reporters saying things like “I’m not sure if this was part of the administration’s plan or not…” , which is about as close to disclaiming the official spin as any of the main networks has come since Obama took office.

  4. If Obama were to wage a war against Syria without any congressional approval, I’d hope the citizens revolted.

    I mean, we all know he’s a closet tyrant, but such a blatant “fuck you” really should be the last straw.

    1. Barry has already asked Congress to tell their constituents to fuck off and give him his fig leaf for war.

  5. This, on Google’s homepage right now:
    “Live! Secretary Kerry answers questions on Syria. Today via Hangout at 2pm ET.”

    1. “Secretary Kerry, with regard to the Syrian chemical weapons red line, what difference, at this point, does it make?”

      1. Each Tomahawk and JDAM will have a transmitter wired to its detonator so that when it goes off, it’ll tweet a clever catch phrase to #SyriaSlam

        Plus select Tomahawks will send out pics of the scenery along the way.

        1. Added on the fly to Google Earth?

  6. Listening to Kerry this morning was kinda surreal. He’s arguing that we need to give the president the authority to go to war because:

    1. We need to show the international community that America speaks with one voice. (no lie, that was his first reason)

    2. The President needs to have the leverage to keep the pressure on Assad and the Russians.

    3. He (Kerry) welcomes the Russian plan, but he’s skeptical that such a plan exists, and it has to meet all of Kerry’s conditions that he laid out to the Russians, and it is very high hurdle that Assad likely can’t meet. (note that he didn’t say “won’t meet”, meaning that there is the real possibility that there is no amount of hoop-jumping that will deter the war march)

    4. Assad is a brutal dictator who killed innocent children. Assad is personally responsible. Assad ordered the use of weapons of mass destruction. (Kerry repeatedly drew a line of personal responsibility for this “brutal dictator”, despite rumblings from elsewhere that the top level of the Syrian government may not have known about the strikes – it would have been nice for them to lay out a counter-argument on that point)

    5. The terrorists will definitely get their hands on these weapons now. (huh?)

    6. Assad will definitely be emboldened to use chemical weapons against Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.

    1. For those in congress on the left who claimed they didn’t mean for Bush to actually use the authority they gave him (John Kerry, I’m looking squarely at you), it has to be a pretty bitter pill to swallow to support an authorization for war as a bargaining chip a second time.

    2. 1. We need to show the international community that America speaks with one voice. (no lie, that was his first reason)

      Know who else thought it was a good idea for a nation to speak with one voice?

      1. Tutto in Obama, niente al di fuori di Obama, nulla contro Obama.

        1. All hail Il Douche, leader of the homeland!

      2. I’ll just leave this here.

        1. Ok, you win. Mime is a worse crime against humanity than chemical weapons.

    3. 5. The terrorists will definitely get their hands on these weapons now. (huh?)

      He’s not refering to the terrorists that make up at least some of the rebel forces, you know, the one’s we would be helping by strikeing the Assad regime. Those terrorists?

  7. If President Obama loses the vote and launches airstrikes anyway, writes Gene Healy, he should be impeached.

    I have no problem with this.

    Unfortunately, I am more likely to find a 380 million dollar winning lottery ticket in my fortune cookie next time I eat at the Chinese buffet restaurant than Congress is to initiate impeachment proceedings (much less actually remove the bozo from office).

    1. Not only should he be impeached if he does that (and fucking removed), even if he doesn’t, Congress needs to lower their balls and use them to firmly reassert their war powers and make it clear that they will, in fact, impeach any president who wanders this far from the reservation.

      Will they do that? Probably not. But if this country would like to hold on to what vestiges of a free republic we have, I strongly advise it. The eventual American dictator will likely seize power through unlimited war-making authority, so don’t fucking give it to him.

      1. There is one scenario where he could be impeached. He launches a war over the objection of Congress and that war results in either a serious terrorist attack on the continental United States or significant American casualties, as in hundreds or maybe thousands.

        If that were to happen, there would be hell to pay. The American public would finally rise up and clean house in the 2014 midterms. And the resulting Congress would be given a mandate to remove the black Jesus and end all of this nonsense.

        1. that war results in either a serious terrorist attack on the continental United States or significant American casualties

          “If we hadn’t attacked, America’s situation would have been *much* worse.”

          1. Warboner Stimulus – why not?

      2. Actually, that could raise a pretty dangerous showdown. If congress explicitly says no to a Syrian war authorization (not Mitchell pulls the bill before a vote but they actually vote it down) what will the military do?

        Most of those Generals are stick-up-their-rear rule followers (in addition to being ambitious climbers and better than average politicians). They’ll have an in-your-face illegal order to attack a foreign nation. What do they do next? Resign in protest? Refuse and stand court martial? Carry out the orders in return for an extra star?

        How about let’s not find out the answer to that question.

        1. The military will do what they did in Kosovo; what the President tells them to do.

          The more interesting issue is funding. The military doesn’t have the money laying around to do this out of O$M funds. They will need a supplemental appropriation. If they don’t get that, how does Obama fund this? It is one thing for the fighter pilots in uniform to say “Roger that” and move out. It is another thing for the civilian bean counters at the Pentagon to do that. Will they commit massive anti-deficiency act violations to fund this? Will Congress stand by and let the President take away the power of the purse?

          That would actually be a bigger Constitutional violation and crisis than bombing a few people without Congressional approval. If the President can spend money over the objection of Congress, then he really is a dictator. That is more power than the King of England had after the Magna Carta and exactly what the founders sought to prevent.

          1. We need a constitutional crisis. I don’t think even a significant minority wants a dictatorship, so Congress could probably easily win that sort of battle.

            The end result isn’t really the issue. It’s whether Congress gives a shit.

          2. The President shall henceforth reserve the power of the purse but only for the purpose of defending our national security interests.

        2. Since it is clear that the president is an enemy of the Constitution, they will have to remove him. Which will not be a “coup”, because we don’t call such things coups these days.

    2. Impeached?

      If he goes to war without approval he should be fucking executed for treason.

      1. In general, I would disagree, but since an express and ongoing enemy of the US is among the beneficiaries, and perhaps the primary beneficiary, of such an illegal attack, I think that would be appropriate here.

    3. I’d find it amusing if Obama lost the vote, disregarded the vote and launched the missiles anyway, and then some video came out of the “Free Syrian Army” discussing military strategy with al-Qaeda or Hezbollah agents.

      1. I though Hezbollah was on Assad’s side.

        1. They are, but I want to see the warmongers try to explain why they pushed to give air support to organizations on the terrorist list.

          I’m just off my game today. Terms, facts, people, just aren’t clicking right.

    4. I agree. And it means, of course, that blacks are still held to a different standard.

      1. Ed Asner saying the lefty celebrities are quiet about this because they don’t want to be seen as racists really says it all. Basically, liberals are too immature about race to handle their being a black President.

      2. I think it’s far more partisanship than race that’s at play here

  8. Here is the thing, when my right of Goldwater father, myself, and my crazy left wing love the Palestinians reporter friend all agree that doing this is a bad idea, it is probably a bad idea. I have never seen something that could unite such a disparate group of opponents before.

    1. It took him 5 years, but Obama has finally succeeded in uniting the country, both left and right!

      1. Damn, first Chocolate Nixon brought back the arctic sea ice, and now he’s united the nation. Maybe he IS jesus!

    2. Justin Bieber?

      1. even better

  9. Obama read this headline as “No war in Syria. :(“

  10. The eventual American dictator will likely seize power through unlimited war-making authority, so don’t fucking give it to him.

    The Ministry of Plenty will be forced to prioritize industrial production to ensure the troops have everything they need, and the forces of Law and Order will need to be federalized in order to improve efficiency. Once the industrial base is under the control of the White House Production Supervisory Board, the takeover will be pretty much a fait accompli.

    1. We are so close you can feel it. I never thought we’d slide into totalitarianism so quickly.

      1. We’re not there yet, but this administration is accelerating the process.

  11. OT: Jordan win penalty shootout. Qualify for Intercontinental Playoff for spot in 2014 World Cup:…..index.html

  12. I don’t recall another modern president (the first lady also) in recent memory who made this many appearances on TV. I think Bush made ONE talk show appearance while he was in office. Michelle Obama will probably find a job at Food Network or the Teen Nick Channel when her husband leave office.

    And what about the “Heisenberg” like empire he built on social media? And his super PAC? What do Americans think about a president who has his own iconography, phrases, merchandising? It seems like this guy’s face is on every other elementary school. If it’s not on the mural, then his face, sign and slogans can be found on the receptionist’s desk.

    If Presdient Mccain, Hillary, or Romney did any of this, they would have received the Bill Clinton treatment from the media. A narcissist who constantly craves media exposure and ears to hear their agenda. But Obama is either black or a messiah, so there it is.

  13. First off, let’s not rely on a paper’s “whip count”. Most of the no’s are at best soft. There are those who are simply completely ideologically opposed to the attack — the leftist peaceniks, the rightist isolationists, etc. — but that number is very small… and they’re usually ignored on foreign policy, anyways.

    Most of the no votes, at this point, just want their “views considered”, which means getting some sort of promise out of leadership for something they care about. I doubt they truly care one way or another about the bombing of some small country on the other side of the world.

    That said, it’s not entirely inconceivable that the administration and Republican leadership actually will not be able to get a resolution, no matter how watered down, passed. Which would actually be quite amazing in the history of American military aggression.

    Anyhow, this mostly seems academic at this point as Mr. Assad is open to giving up the chemical weapons he says he isn’t using anyways. He must be extremely confident that he’ll win the civil war and doesn’t want American airstrikes risking that victory. And he’ll also likely avoid the fate of Qaddafi as the will of the rebels to militarily oppose the regime again will be shattered for decades to come.

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