Been thinking a little about a congressional vote about what to do regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons. If I may engage in a little bit of paranoia here, I think Obama may have had a few “extra” reasons to ask for Congressional permission.
- He kind of dug himself a hole with the “red line” comments and needs a way out.
- He doesn’t want to be the sole person responsible for what will be a terrible situation no matter what we do.
- He wants to expose, deepen, and/or exploit the gap between Bush-era neocon hawks and isolationists in the Republican Party.
- Same thing for the gap between the more-or-less sane senior leadership (McCain and such) vs the rabid tea-party haters.
- He wants the haters to be exposed as people who’d vote against him no matter what.
- He wants to get everyone who might be running in 2016 on record, to minimize the “I told you so” contingent. Especially relevant given that he wasn’t in the Senate yet to vote about 2003 Iraq and his SecState, Kerry, was politically pummeled for his vote.
- He wants to give his Democratic members of congress a chance to distance themselves from his policy if they need to for the sake of their own re-elections.
- If he is not given a go-ahead for missile strikes, it’s possible Assad will launch another gas attack. If so, he can
- get far greater support internationally
- blame the Republicans for encouraging it
- If he does get permission for a strike, and it goes well, he gets credit for the arm-twisting to get it passed.
- If he gets permission and strikes, but Assad uses more gas against the rebels anyway (perhaps as a gesture of defiance), he can escalate without having to go back to Congress.
Now, it is entirely possible that Obama went to Congress just because he thought it was the right thing to do. But nobody gets elected President (twice) without being really good at political calculations. You have to admit that the above, and probably plenty more, have been part of the calculations.