Deyan Ranko Brashich
President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are brilliant as the good cop/bad cop guys in this week’s episode of the three year old soap opera As the World Turns and Syria Burns seen this past Sunday on the TV networks and continuing this week.
Good cop Obama was tempted to flaunt constitutional law and use questionable military force in solving the Syrian crisis. He warned Syria’s President al Assad that the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” not to be crossed. If that line was crossed all bets were off. Obama would do what was necessary even if that made him a bad cop, a cop willing to break the law.
Unfortunately, Obama did not just draw a line in the sand; he went and painted himself and the United States into a corner.
For Assad the red line was a green light to deploy chemical weapons, to call Obama’s bluff. In response Obama remained silent on the use of force with or without United Nations or Congressional approval but his aids and the usual anonymous Administration sources predicted impending limited strikes against the Assad regime. American military assets were moved into the region within striking distance of Damascus. Obama called upon the “coalition of the willing”, asking England and France to lend a hand.
England promptly stabbed Obama in the back. Notwithstanding Prime Minister Cameron’s entreaties the House of Commons voted to take a pass on this war. Stuck a the box of his own making Obama was reminded that he told the Boston Globe in a 2007 campaign statement that “[t]he President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Obama, the constitutional scholar promptly reversed course and called for Congressional approval and blessings for use of force. He took to the high moral ground acknowledging that the American people, or at least those in Congress, should have a say, bear responsibility for yet another war. At the same time he unleashed his surrogate, his dog of war John Kerry, the Secretary of State.
Kerry, the Viet Nam War veteran who testified in Congress: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” changed his tune once safely in the Senate: “If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act.”
If Congress approves a limited pre-emptive strike Obama is off the hook. This act of war will have been sanctioned by Congress. He will not unilaterally use military force, he will simply implement the will of the American people. On the other hand, should congressional approval be denied having made Kerry his surrogate, his proxy for a unilateral call to war, he can defend his legacy and his unearned Nobel Peace prize claiming to have forcefully called for the United States to do the right thing.
Deyan Ranko Brashich, an attorney and Op Ed columnist writes from New York and is a contributing writer. A collection of essays “Letters from America” has just been published in June, 2013. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com.