There’s a good chance that Barack Obama is going to fail.
As media outlets begin to do rough counts of where representatives stand, it appears that there is a strong possibility that the United States House of Representatives will not authorize our country to begin a military campaign in Syria. If this happens, the blowback will fall hard on Barack Obama. His enemies, having been foaming at the mouth for years, will claim an overwhelming victory.
For Republicans, this is the moment they have waited for for nearly five years. They finally have the president stating his own personal view with a resounding call for action. They have a chance to publicly show him as an incompetent leader who wants to accomplish something but cannot do it. They will portray him as weak, as someone who failed with the world watching. They will discuss how this showing of weak leadership will give our enemies all the more reason to attack us. They will show that what we have is a president whose legacy is now tainted and who will have lost any chance to accomplish anything significant during the duration of his presidency.
What they won’t realize is that nothing could be farther from the truth.
If the United States Congress ultimately decides not to go to war, it will be one of the best things for Barack Obama’s presidency. Yes, the immediate fallout will be swift. In addition to it being Christmas 24/7 on Fox, odds are that Obama’s approval rating will reach a new five-year low. However, remember that the American public has an extremely short memory. When was the last time you heard someone in the media raise a cry for gun control? Soon enough, the American public will move on to the issue of raising the debt ceiling, an issue where President Obama has continually proven to be the only adult in the room.
What’s important is that the legacy of Obama’s actions over the Syria conflict will resonate from generations to come. First and foremost, the Bush Doctrine is officially dead. Long gone are the day of unilateral warfare based on the good word of an American Secretary of State. A new world has emerged with the executive and legislative branches of government working together in deciding the involvement of our country’s military. What we have here is an American president suggesting a course of action, but allowing an elected body of officials to ultimately decide whether or not that action comes to fruition. This is a complete 180 from the Bush years and also conveniently destroys the right’s talking point about Dictator Obama.
Equally important is the damage that this course of action will ultimately do to the Republican Party. Despite the consistent infighting, one thing that has united the Republican Party of late has been their constant support of war and war profiteering. What we have here is a party united against President Obama and ultimately bucking its ties to the military industrial complex. Who would have thought that the Republican Party, after brazenly supporting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would find a war that it did not like? And yet, they may very well have found one in Syria. Dick Chaney never imagined that a war for his buddies at Halliburton would be prevented by members of his own party.
Perhaps more important though, is the blow this deals to the Republican Party in terms of national security. What we have is a political party who has built its reputation on being tough on terror. And yet, here we may very well have Republicans vote against taking military action against a Middle Eastern dictator who gassed his own people. How can Republicans claim to be tough on terror when they are actively voting against taking action against a brutal dictator who will then remain in power in the world’s most unstable region? It’s a question that Republican Congressional candidates in 2014 will have to face and one that they won’t have an easy answer for. Democrats in highly competitive races will call out their competitors for putting their vote on record as being one in favor of allowing a dictator to remain in power despite using chemical agents against his own people.
For Republicans, a vote against war in Syria will do wonders for their short-term political gain. However, the long-term damage might very well be the fissure that ultimately dismantles the Republican Party. If the party can no longer can claim that the President is an unchecked dictator who goes against the will of the people, if the party can no longer go to war to support its military industrial complex, if the party can no longer be the party that is tough on terror then essentially everything the Republican Party has stood will go up in smoke.
That, rather than military involvement in Syria, might end up being Barack Obama’s greatest legacy.