Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The Obama administration has asked the US Congress to authorize airstrikes on specific Syrian government targets because President Bashar al-Assad’s government “has crossed the redline” and used chemical weapons on its own people.
While the world waits to see concrete evidence supporting the administration’s assertion – and in light of the fiasco in Iraq, this is an extremely important step – the administration’s request to Congress has caught many off guard.
While at first glance it seems the administration is only following the law in asking for Congress’ permission, this action doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons.
The primary being that the Obama administration does not need Congress’ permission for the airstrikes. Furthermore, by waiting for Congress to debate this issue, Washington is wasting valuable time and allowing Assad to reorganize his armaments and people. Both will make the strikes costly (in human terms), inaccurate (as the targets may be surrounded by human capital) and, therefore, less effective.
The question then is why would the Obama administration go to the US Congress?
Some have posited that this was done because the US president does not want to strike Syria and will use Congress’ denial as a way out.
I don’t believe this to be valid because our president’s actions during the Libyan uprising showed that he is not against attacking an Arab (or North African) nation.
Furthermore, this strike already has the support of Gulf nations (most prominently Saudi Arabia), Egypt, Israel and Jordan – the latter has been particularly hammered by the growing refugee crisis.
The administration also knows Congress will not vote against an Israeli-recommended military action so unless the Tea-Partiers and Democrats go against their president and biggest Middle Eastern ally, these strikes will be authorized.
However, they will be authorized with certain conditions and those will likely be based on the US consolidating its gains, which will require supporting and training the rebels – and that is almost always a precursor to US troop presence in a foreign nation.
Indeed, just today, Senator McCain said that strikes alone won’t do the job and Senator Graham echoed that sentiment. Furthermore, the New New York Times has reported that the US president “indicated that a covert effort by the United States to arm and train Syrian rebels was beginning to yield results: the first 50-man cell of fighters, who have been trained by the C.I.A., was beginning to sneak into Syria.”
So, we already have our allies going into the country. This obviously won’t be enough and we will need to increase arms support and training and that will require a larger presence, and the administration needs Congress’ permission to raise the number of US – and allied – personnel in and around Syria.
Let’s now consider the second and third level impacts of this action. Obviously, it will draw Iran directly into the conflict but most nations in the region will support our action – Assad isn’t particularly popular there. Iraq will be a wildcard but likely controllable for a short-period.
From a purely mathematical perspective, while it will cause more instability in the region, sending troops to Syria will be more popular in the Middle East than in the United States.
However, if the US administration has Congress’ permission then it can use that authority and the period between the strikes and arrival of troops to convince the American people that it is in their interest to support this plan and “our troops.”
In conclusion, this is the only reason that makes sense when it comes to the US administration going to Congress to get permission for airstrikes on Syria.
By the way, this also means that for the first time in their respective histories, the United States and Al-Qaida will be united against the same opponent – think of that for a moment.