Gary L. Bauer
Reports this morning suggest that President Obama may suffer a stunning defeat on Capitol Hill as more members of Congress go on the record against taking military action in Syria.
While the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing the use of force, cracks are emerging within the Democrat caucus. Senators Manchin (D-WV) and Heitkamp (D-ND) are proposing an alternative that would give Syria 45 days to sign a treaty banning the use of chemical weapons.
On the House side, Obama actually lost a representative who was with him. Citing the failure to rally the international community and the public airing of our intended strategy, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), one of the few to initially express support for military strikes, has changed his mind.
Grimm stated: "Now that the Assad regime has seen our playbook and has been given enough time to prepare and safeguard potential targets, I do not feel that we have enough to gain as a nation by moving forward with this attack on our own."
According to one media analysis, 205 House members are on the record as against or leaning against giving Obama the authority to launch military strikes against Syria. Faced with this looming defeat, President Obama announced today that he will address the nation Tuesday to make "the best case that I can" for taking action against Syria.
Many conservatives are making a very valid point: If we don't act, the mullahs in Tehran, as well as Assad in Syria, will think we are weak and powerless. I share that concern.
But it is worth remembering that Assad and the mullahs were already sent a signal of weakness when they watched the president permit the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The Obama Administration did virtually nothing to defend them. It blamed the attack on a movie. It has failed to bring the terrorists to justice, and has stonewalled the investigation for nearly a year.
Did this non-response to the atrocities in Benghazi make Assad's use of chemical weapons more likely? I believe it did.
"A War The Pentagon Doesn't Want"
Obama now has a problem with elements of the U.S. military too, when it comes to his plans on Syria. In today's Washington Post, Major General Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, writes about the considerable dissention in the ranks about engaging the U.S. military in Syria. Here how Scale's describes the feedback he is getting from Pentagon officers:
- "They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration's attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.
- "They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about 'red lines.' These acts would be for retribution and to restore the reputation of a president. Our serving professionals make the point that killing more Syrians won't deter Iranian resolve to confront us. The Iranians have already gotten the message."
The Pentagon's concern that the White House does not have a clear goal was evident during John Kerry's testimony this week. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) asked General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what the goal was, and Dempsey replied, "I can't answer that -- what we're seeking."
In other words, the Obama Administration sent its top military officer up to Capitol Hill with no clear objective or mission regarding Syria.
Friends, please do not misunderstand me. I am not a member of the isolationist wing of conservatism that says America is done with the world. As one commentator put it, whether we like it or not, the world is not done with America.
But like so many of you, I am done with politically correct wars in which our political leadership commits U.S. forces to the battlefield with all kinds of nuanced objectives EXCEPT the only one that matters: Victory. Victory is achieved by decimating the enemy as quickly as possible.
Virtually every move this administration has made in the Middle East has resulted in a worse situation. Allies have been dumped and replaced by Islamic extremists. It has been obsessed with forcing Israel to make "concessions for peace," while Iran builds nuclear weapons.
We have an irresolute president who doesn't understand the Middle East. His previous lack of action in Syria has put us in this current mess, where no alternative looks good. We have a public that is extremely reluctant to act. Meanwhile our enemies detect weakness.