Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

Why Obama’s sudden deference to Congress?

Image Credit: mistydawnphoto /

Image Credit: mistydawnphoto /

Why did President Obama delay a strike in Syria and turn to Congress to approve military action?  Seeking Congressional approval is … how shall we put it? … out of character for this president.

After all, Obama did not feel he needed Congress to delay implementation of the employer mandate in Obamacare, even though nothing in the Affordable Care Act permits him to do so.

Obama did not feel he needed Congress to continue aid to Egypt, even thought the law clearly states that he must suspend it following that country’s coup d’état.

Obama did not feel he needed Congress to create his own Dream Act by suspending the deportation an entire class of illegal immigrants.

Obama did not feel he needed Congress to impose new taxes on every American cell phone user in order to fund his multi-billion dollar plan to place high-speed internet connections into United States schools.

He did not feel he needed Congress to launch his regulatory “war on coal.”

And he did not feel he needed Congress to launch his war in Libya.

But in Syria — where he is contemplating strikes far more limited than the Libya operation — the president is suddenly asking Congress for its blessing to act.

Why the sudden deference to the legislative branch?  Simple: The limited strikes he intends to carry out will likely fail, and he wants Congress on the hook, so that Republicans cannot criticize his Syria policy when it implodes.

Republicans should not take the bait.

Obama says he does not actually need Congressional approval to launch military action in Syria.  He is right.  He has the inherent authority as commander in chief to do so.  But therein lies the irony.  In so many areas where Obama does need authority from Congress, he rules by executive fiat.  But in the one area where the Constitution gives him broad authority to act, he turns to Congress for cover.

If he lays out a coherent strategy to deal a real blow to Assad, isolate al Qaeda, and help the moderate, pro-Western opposition come to power, then Congress should back him.

But if his only plan is the weak-kneed response the administration has telegraphed so far, let him act on his own — and own the consequences.

10 thoughts on “Why Obama’s sudden deference to Congress?

  1. Folks should realize that it’s not Obama alone who is making strategy – both military options and political options.

    This is more like the Kosovo dilemma than the Iraq/Afghanistan issue especially since we’ve seen
    how decapitating a nations current leadership can and will
    lead to a civil war – of which there are no easy candidates to take over – e.g. Libya/Egypt.

    There is no question that Obama and team are looking at this more like Clinton looked at Serbia than Bush looked at Iraq – and not without some justification.

    We know all too well how easy it is to get drawn into a boots-on-the-ground conflict and all too well how hard it is to influence without boots-on-the-ground.

    we do have strategic interests in the Middle East and the one thing about the POTUS team strategy is to demonstrate to everyone that even Congress is not going to arrive at an easy consensus on the way forward.

    Call Obama timid – and perhaps true but also realize that those presumed to have more fire in their belly seem not of one mind either.

  2. First let me say I totally dislike o’bama and know he’s a LYING FRAUD.
    Still, just maybe he doesn’t want strike Syria (the desire of the war monger puppeteers who are usually pulling his puppet strings) and this is a way for him to say, “I’m trying and want to do your agenda (to the puppeteers) but congress and 90% of the people are against it.” Unfortunately, he may then say, “we NEED a greater excuse to do it,” which might entail a bad False Flag event which he hopes to capitalize on so he can institute Martial Law, leading to the UN taking over in their version of a NWO instead of the war mongers continuing their heading toward their corporatist version of a NWO.

    • there’s an equal danger that Obama could be goaded into “I’ll show them” response that will totally please the neocons and interventionists…..

      those folks have a strategy also…………

  3. I suspect it is because even Democrats are seeing the danger of a president who takes action unilaterally, especially on something as important as war. I suspect he realizes that if he goes off to war without Congressional input, that it could endanger his future as despot-in-chief. He has not quite consolidated his power yet.

  4. Despite the President’s limited intentions, this has the potential to be a much more significant conflict than the Libya campaign, because Iran or Hezbollah could respond as they have threatened, leading to a much wider war. So it’s absolutely appropriate to debate this in Congress beforehand. I’d vote yes.

  5. I love it. It is a repeat of the events of twelve years ago, right down to the Secy of State pleading the case. The media has had to recycle stories changing there tone to sway public opinion. You cant make this stuff up.

  6. Here’s another reason: Obama simply cannot stomach looking less democratic than Britain, which he despises. Once Cameron deferred to his legislature, Obama felt pressure to do the same.

  7. Obama has passed this to Congress to dig himself out of a box. if they agree and it fails, they are in it together; if they vote “no” he can blame them for not having courage and moral rectitude to protect the children. he thinks it is a “win” for him either way — but in reality his credibility after all the fumbling and bumbling of the last several years, including the Kerry/Dempsey appearance yesterday is toast. i don’t know if a “shot across the bow” does much for U S credibility, frankly. i worry this will blow up in the administration’s face, and they do not have the skill set to handle, clearly.

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