Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Star Trek Chess

Cokie Roberts thought President Obama’s idea of going to Congress for a resolution on Syria was dangerous for him politically.

ROBERTS: If Congress votes no, it’s a big problem for the president. Now, he says he can still go ahead with any action against Syria, but it really does put his second term in terrible shape. It means that he is very much weakened, both in foreign policy and at home.

Of course she would.  If memory serves, she thought his winning re-election weakened him politically because that meant he could never run for office again.

Then there are those, such as Juan Cole, who think it was a very well-crafted call.

Obama made a clever political calculation. The Tea Party and the GOP in general had been demanding that he submit the Syria file to them. So he obliged them. If they say ‘no,’ as the British parliament did, then Obama is off the hook. If they say ‘yes,’ then they are full partners in any failures that result. Either way, the issue is taken off the agenda of the 2016 election and Democrats are held harmless.

Those who think a ‘no’ vote will make Obama an early lame duck do not reckon with how all the votes have been ‘no’ for some years now. Nothing will change in that regard.

For what it’s worth, I’m with him.

In addition, Walter Shapiro thinks that it resets the gameboard for every future president who heretofore thought going to war without Congress was part of the deal.

Every time a president employs questionable legal arguments to wage war, it becomes a valuable tool for the next Commander in Chief impatient with the constitutional requirement to work through Congress. That’s why it would have been so dangerous for Obama to go forward in Syria without a congressional vote or the support of the UN or NATO. It is as much of a slippery slope argument as the contention that Iran, say, would be emboldened with its nuclear program if America did not punish Assad’s chemical attacks.

Assuming Obama wins congressional approval, America’s coming attack on Syria is designed to set a lasting precedent: No government can ever again use chemical, biological – let alone nuclear – weapons without facing devastating consequences. As Obama asked rhetorically in his Saturday Rose Garden statement, “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”

But Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval may prove to be an even more important precedent. Future presidents – as they consider unilateral military action without American security hanging in the balance – will have to answer, “Why didn’t you go to Congress like Obama did over Syria?”

Anything that could bring us back from the “drop the gloves and go” moment is a good thing.

6 barks and woofs on “Star Trek Chess

  1. Interesting that the one muttered/muted comment out of W seemed to say – if he was quoted accurately – that the decision to go to Congress would do just that: weaken the President’s hand in the future. So, that’s a bad thing?

  2. I for one am fascinated with all the Congressional posturing about “consultation” before engaging in military action. For all their trumpeted reverence of Teh Constitooshun™, the GOTea – particularly the Orthodox Tenther Teahadists – have repeatedly missed the part about declaring war being a Congressional privilege/obligation – they’re expecting all future conflicts will be declared by the pResident and rubber-stamped by Congress, and haven’t said Word One about how it’s not BHO’s privilege to declare war but rather the House’ and Senate’s obligation to make that commitment. It’s a real pity that those who insist on adhering absolutely to the founding documents don’t have the grasp on those documents that they should.

  3. I think it was a brilliant political move. And anything that sends the pundit class reeling is wonderful. If you can get people on Fox wondering what to say now, it’s great.

    And the idea of not rushing into another war is great too. All in all, I’m ecstatic.

    • I agree. I would like to have seen George S. ask Peggy Noonan what she would have done; but he didn’t. She got to go on a rampage that I turned off.

  4. Even if he “loses” he wins. Look at the chess map:

    Cong goes along?
    Turns out good? Everyone wins
    Turns out bad? Shared guilt
    Cong stops it?
    Turns out good? He says “the will of the people”.
    Turns out bad? He says “I told you so”

    Under no situation does he flat out lose.

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