WSJ: Obama's Syria Policy Marks Abdication of Responsibility

Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 01:41 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Barack Obama's decision to opt for congressional approval before launching a military strike against Syria is an abdication of his responsibility and is a further indication that his policy in the Middle East is one of retreat, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

"Mr. Obama will now have someone else to blame if Congress blocks his mission, but in the bargain he has put at risk his credibility and America's standing in the world," the Journal asserted over the holiday weekend.

"This will go down as one of the stranger gambles, if not abdications, in Commander-in-Chief history."

The administration had said for days that it could and would act without congressional approval, but then it decided on a different course. "If the point of the bombing is primarily to 'send a message,' as the president says, well, then, apparently Congress must co-sign the letter and send it via snail mail," the Journal said, adding that it appears that the president is taking into account a number of political considerations before acting at all.

"Mr. Obama can read the polls, which show that most of the public opposes intervention in Syria ... But what does anyone expect, given Mr. Obama's foreign-policy leadership?"

The Journal accused him of leading a U.S. retreat from the Middle East since he began running for president, according to the editorial.

"The real political surprise, not to say miracle, is that after all of this, so many Americans still support military action in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons — 50 percent in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll," the editorial noted.

The Journal acknowledged that congressional and public support is always helpful for military action. "But the danger in this instance," the editors said, "is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell a quarter-hearted intervention with half-hearted conviction."

The Journal has advocated in the past for pursuing a policy that arms certain rebel factions fighting to overthrow the Bashar Assad regime. In the editorial, the editors suggested that would still be a better route to go than simply striking back at Assad for his reported use of chemical weapons.

"The problem with the intervention that Mr. Obama is proposing is that it will do little or nothing to end the civil war or depose Assad," the Journal said.

"It is a one-off response intended to vindicate Mr. Obama's vow that there would be 'consequences' if Assad used chemical weapons. It is a bombing gesture detached from a larger strategy."

According to the Journal, Obama has now turned the issue into a test of American credibility, leaving Congress little choice but to act.

"A defeat in Congress would signal to Bashar Assad and the world's other thugs that the U.S. has retired as the enforcer of any kind of world order ... The world's rogues would be further emboldened and look for more weaknesses to exploit," the Journal said.

"The reason to ... authorize the use of force is not to save this President from embarrassment. It is to rescue American credibility and strategic interests from this most feckless of presidents."

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