The epic vacillation of President Barack Obama on the Syrian crisis can end soon if Congress takes steps to call a special session back to Washington D.C. for later this week.
Though this should have been done last week, better late than never — and Monday and Tuesday seems like an eternity when the House and Senate return to session.
I know the Idaho congressional delegation would welcome this discussion. Sen. Jim Risch, who is concerned about a solely punitive action against Syria, returned to Washington this week to participate in more Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefings. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, wants the president to seek congressional authorization and on Saturday Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, called for House Speaker John Boehner to convene a special session as soon as possible. Sen. Mike Crapo issued the following statement:
“The recent events in Syria present a difficult and tragic situation. U.S. involvement must be consistent with protecting our national security interests and I am not sure if that threshold has yet been met. Any use of force cannot be a rush to judgment and it is paramount that the President engage in a full dialogue with the American people and with Congress before taking any action.”
After all of the missed opportunities to send strong messages instead of a series of idle threats, the president should simply ask Sen. Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner to reconvene early. Doing so would get the attention of everyone in the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Plus, having a single item on the agenda for a change would remind each of the 535 that they are sent to Washington to protect our “national interests” and it is high time those words were discussed and defined.
Perhaps the president wishes he had acted on Syria and then begged forgiveness rather than participate in this politicized and protracted public relations campaign to otherwise ask for that permission. But as many have pointed out, we do have branches of government beyond the executive that deserve to be consulted.
The cost of our national indecisiveness now is that the Assad regime has another week to prepare to absorb the impact of a rumored missile attack. He and his like can move assets around closer to civilian groups where, should we attack, there may be collateral casualties of innocents that he can be filmed and blamed on the U.S.
Or, as Sen. John McCain pointed out, we have so thoroughly “telegraphed” our punch it is hard to imagine it will exact the desired impact.
Though an attack may be precisely surgical and targeted using today’s technologically advanced intelligence, the aftermath establishes a “new normal.” The United States, for better or worse, will give a fresh example of acting like an international police force willing to carry out that role unilaterally whenever it feels like it.
Atrocities are legion and ongoing all over the globe and have been throughout history. Yet this one in Syria — a horrific event for sure that includes an incidence of sarin gas used to kill nearly 1,500 of the Assad opposition including more than 400 children — draws our fire. Who will be tracking and preparing missiles for all of the other murderous injustices occurring in the world?
Dictators and despots who gas their own people don’t deserve to exist, but the president has done his country a disservice by the public airing of his indecisiveness.
Congress’s homework — tomorrow or next week — is to outline just who the good guys and bad guys are before we take sides. I question whether that is knowable. And while they are at it, they should do a sidebar on Egypt and a growing list of toppled governments that we fund.
Lobbing cruise missiles at Assad is one form of expression. Developing a foreign policy that takes into account the broader picture is what is really needed.
It’s time for Congress and President Obama to get together and speak publicly on our national interests and goals.