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Obama seeks Congress approval for military action in Syria

By Harry Phibbs
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David Cameron has set a trend. President Barack Obama is to seek Congressional approval for military action against the Syrian regime:

I'm confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors.  I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable.  As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.

Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.  We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.  And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.

Will Congress approve? Public opinion is split. However while most oppose "boots on the grounds", that is not what is proposed. A poll found that action "limited to airstrikes using cruise missiles launched from U.S. naval ships that were meant to destroy military units and infrastructure that have been used to carry out chemical attacks," had 50 percent support while 40 percent opposed.

Furthermore, generally the Republican criticism of President Obama is of being too soft on the Assad regime.

The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in June:

"Despite the President's rhetoric and red lines, President Assad's brutal assault on his own people and the Syrian conflict has only become more violent.

"I have heard loudly and clearly from our closest partners in the region who are desperate for American leadership. They see the Syrian crisis spinning out of control, empowering Iran, and fueling instability in a critical region.

"My colleagues and I stand ready to work with the President. I call on President Obama to explain to the Congress and the American people his plan to bring this conflict to an end in a manner that protects the interests of the United States and our allies."

The minority Democrats leader Nancy Pelosi has also been pressing for military action.

The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has yet to make his views clear. The Republican Minority leader in the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell has criticised President Obama for not being tougher on the Syrian regime.

If the President can carry most of the Democrats I can't see him losing the vote given the general stance of the Republicans.

The President is certainly giving a clear message:

Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place.  And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see -- hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead.  All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children -- young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.

This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.

In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.


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