Most Americans have no idea how it feels to enjoy a 5-week vacation from the rigors of going to work to do nothing but hamper economic recovery and vote to defund the Affordable Care Act. The United States Congress returns today with a laundry list of important items to address and only 9 days to solve some very important issues. If history is any indication, it is unlikely this Congress will get down to work to accomplish anything except attempting to defund the Affordable Care Act, shut down the government, and cause a national credit default, but the President has asked them to decide whether or not America should take action against the Assad regime for using banned chemical weapons in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
It is apparent that either the President has great faith that Republicans will put aside their racially-motivated obstructionist ways and finally do the jobs they were sent to Washington to do, or continue bickering amongst themselves about how best to sabotage the economy and let Syrians sort out their own civil war. It is entirely possible that was the President’s intent all along, but of course that is purely speculation; and maybe brilliant.
Over the past five weeks Republicans have spent their vacation sucking up to the oil industry and attempting to convince their constituents that defunding the Affordable Care Act is more pressing than immigration reform, government funding levels, increasing the federal debt limit, fixing the sequester, reworking the Voting Rights Act, and restoring food stamp funding in the farm bill. Now their demand to have input into whether or not America should take limited action against Syrian forces is before them and they appear astonished they are tasked with making a decision with so many pressing domestic issues waiting for their attention. In fact, a 10-term representative from New Jersey, Republican Frank A. LoBiondo said upon leaving a briefing on Syria that “We’re having trouble walking and chewing gum already. This doesn’t make it any easier.”
It may be that the idea of intervening in the Syrian conflict and assisting the rebels in their attempt to overthrow the Assad regime is not in America, or the region’s best interests and doubtless that thought is not lost on President Obama. Let’s face it, the President has resisted repeated calls from Republican warmongers to get involved in giving the rebels an advantage for a good reason and it has everything to do with Syria’s considerable cache of chemical weapons that are the source of consternation among regional and world governments today. The rebels have promised that if the United States weakens the Syrian army, they will launch a ferocious assault to overthrow the Assad regime and there is no way of knowing whether or not a new government will be a serious threat to American interests or its allies in the region.
The specter of an extremist Islamist regime with access to a twenty-year buildup of chemical weapons and the means to deliver them does not bode well for anyone in the region, but especially Israel that activated their Iron Dome defense system over the weekend in anticipation of Syrian retaliation against America’s closest ally in the region in the event Congress gives the go-ahead for an America-only military strike. The President intimated on Sunday that turning “a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria, and failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons.” The President is absolutely right and there is no guarantee that “terrorists” he alluded to will be none other than a hostile Syrian government controlled by Islamist extremists within the rebel movement fighting to overthrow the Assad regime.
President Obama has suggested over the course of the Syrian civil war that intervening on behalf of the rebels is ill-advised because there is no way of knowing who is behind the rebel forces. Likely, it is why the President spent considerable time and energy at the G20 summit attempting to marshal international support to hold the Syrians accountable for the chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that claimed countless lives of innocent civilians. Now, any American involvement is in the hands of an impotent Congress that is unable to manage passing a budget, farm bill, and immigration reform because they are too focused on defunding the Affordable Care Act, shutting down the government, and bickering over whether or not to default on the nation’s debt obligation.
Republicans in Congress, particularly the dependable warmongers who lust to bomb the Middle East, have shown no inclination to set aside their hatred for this President and support him; even to kill Muslims accused of using chemical weapons against their own countrymen. It is reasonable to assume that it may be the outcome the President hoped for after all. America cannot be the world’s police and the civil war in Syria is an internal matter and frankly, the rebels attempting to overthrow the legal government have given no assurance they have not already acquired some of the considerable chemical weapons few in the world cared to address.
The Syrian issue is a very complex problem that falls under the aegis of the United Nations and not just America. As the President has noted several times, 98% of the world’s governments signed treaties banning chemical weapons and mandated their destruction, and yet over the past twenty years Russia, Iran, European nations, and even American companies helped Syria buildup of a very substantial chemical weapons stash. The question the 188 signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention now have to answer is just how committed they are to banning chemical weapons, and if as a group they will hold the Syrians who deployed them accountable for their actions or continue turning a blind eye.
President Obama has made America’s position clear that its commitment to banning chemical weapons is not confined to signing a treaty, and sending the decision to Congress sent a message to Americans that the democratic process will decide whether America takes action. There are valid arguments on both sides why America should or should not intervene in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs, and it is up to Congress to make the final decision. For his part, the President has silenced critics that he is not willing to take a principled stand and defend America’s interests abroad, or that he is adhering to the Bush doctrine of unilaterally deciding when America goes to war. The signal to Congress is that it is long past time for them to get to work for the American people and maybe resolving the question of military action against Syria will inspire them to quickly decide that it is not in America’s best interest to risk the possibility of a new Syrian regime unafraid to use chemical weapons against America or its allies.
With only 9 days to oppose raising the debt ceiling and funding the government, Republicans in Congress have their work cut out for them and it is likely their automatic opposition to President Obama will decide the Syria issue quickly and put responsibility for addressing chemical weapons use where it belongs in the hands of the United Nations. It is unreasonable that Republicans will want to miss an opportunity to waste 9 days creating another economic crisis over funding the government and threatening the nation’s credit, and it is possible the President counted on them to reject his request all along.