Congressional approval for Syria strikes in doubt
Nation has incredible stakes and difficult options.
Despite the steady drumbeat of war, a strike on Syria may not come with Congressional approval after all. A powerful coalition of anti-war Democrats and Republicans critical of Obama's foreign policy has formed. That coalition puts votes in both the House and Senate in question. For the nation, the stakes are much higher than most realize.
Congress returns to work today, and by the end of this week, they will take up the issue of whether to approve Obama's request for strikes against Syria. Tallies of the votes are not being publicized, so it is difficult to ascertain the overall sentiment. Many representatives have said they remain undecided.
Support among the American public for a strike on Syria is low. Few international allies support the notion. Syria and Iran have pledged to retaliate against the U.S. and possibly Israel. Russia has promised to provide additional arms to the Assad regime. China and Russia have both deployed warships to the Eastern Mediterranean to monitor the situation there.
Americans fear that even if Obama loses the upcoming vote in Congress, he will order a military strike anyway. He has already affirmed his right to do so, although it remains in legal doubt. Still, as commander-in-chief, Obama can give the order and the missiles will land long before the lawyers can mobilize to stop him.
The past week has seen intense lobbying. Even though the congressional leaders of both parties support the strikes, the majority seem to remain undecided, or are at least quiet about their sentiments.
The crux of the problem is that national credibility is at stake. Obama pledged strikes if Assad used chemical weapons. Although Assad denies responsibility, both common sense and evidence suggest he did so, if the administration can be believed about anything. In truth, it is unlikely that the rebels can deploy such a powerful and coordinated chemical weapons attack. Only the regime had the resources to stage the attack that came in short test bursts followed by a main strike delivered by mortar and rocket.
Among the evidence being privately shared are communications intercepts, which both the administration and those who have seen them all agree are damning to the Assad regime.
Based on the evidence at hand, Assad is responsible for the attacks that killed some 1,300 people. The United States has pledged a response. However, that response could open a much wider conflict that draws the U.S. and other nations into war.
Conversely, the U.S. can do nothing, and that obliterates the final shred of credibility kept by the Obama administration. U.S. international resolve will appear broken on the world stage. Assad will have gotten away with using a weapon of mass destruction and enemies of the U.S. may be emboldened.
There are no easy solutions because Obama promised military action from the outset, effectively painting the nation into a corner.
Now we must decide if we are to double down on war and violence, or if another way can be found to handle the situation.
It may be tempting to turn the nation inwards, to say that foreign problems are not the responsibility of the United States, for we have plenty of domestic issues at home. Yet, history teaches that every great power that has turned inward, such as late 15th century China and postwar Great Britain, has seen a loss of hegemony and power with economic repercussions. Such a choice would mark the start of a decline, as history suggests.
If the United States does the same, we can expect to compete with the rest of the world on a more level playing field, as opposed to the present one that favors us much more than most Americans realize. This will mean higher prices for imports, less influence in the world, and less prestige. All these things matter to us domestically and are the reason why we enjoy a lifestyle that is otherwise beyond our means as a nation.
Perhaps this is what is at stake in Syria.
Whatever happens, this will be a significant moment in American history, more significant than most realize. Will our nation continue to be the world's police force in exchange for hegemony and cheap resources? Or, will we take our seat equal amongst the other nations and wax nostalgic for more belligerent times?
There are no easy solutions, for both choices bear a cost. This week we decide. Next week, it's time to start paying.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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