If Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to establish that President Obama has no real strategy for Syria, was only going to Congress for political cover, and would completely ignore whatever limitations Congress included in any authorization of force, then his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday was a tremendous success.
For ground troops before he was against them
In perhaps his biggest bungle of the day, Kerry testified early on in the hearing that it was entirely possible that Obama's initial airstrikes could eventually lead to American troops on the ground. “In the event Syria imploded for instance or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies — all of us, the British, the French, and others," Kerry said, "I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country.”
Obama's pro-bombing allies on the committee immediately acknowledged Kerry's gaffe, and allowed him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself. After bombing-enabler Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., asked Kerry to clarify his remarks, Kerry said, "All I did was raise a hypothetical question about some possibility — and I’m thinking out loud — about how to protect America’s interests.”
For war before they were against it
In his opening statement Kerry insisted that Obama "is not asking America to go to war." But just minutes later in his own prepared remarks, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel acknowledged that war is exactly what Obama is proposing. "We understand that a country faces few decisions as grave as using military force. We are not unaware of the costs and ravages of war."
For delay before they were against it
And when Kerry wasn't disagreeing with Hagel about whether or not what Obama was proposing was war, he was disagreeing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about whether Obama's decision to delay airstrikes made the operation less effective.
“In fact, we’re not losing anything by waiting, and I personally believe there are advantages,” Kerry said. ”This does not in any way deteriorate the fundamental mission of degrading and deterring the use of chemical weapons.”
But Dempsey disagreed. Asked by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., if Obama's delay had made it "more difficult" to carry out the mission, Dempsey responded, "Yes, senator. It has."
Obama's war. What is it good for?
But perhaps the most telling exchange of the day came between Corker and Dempsey. Asked by Corker what exactly the Obama administration was seeking to accomplish with the authorization of force from Congress, Dempsey replied, "I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking."
And that really is the question members of Congress from both parties will have to wrestle with. With both Pew and ABC News coming out with polls showing that the vast majority of the American people oppose bombing Syria, what is it exactly that Congress hopes to accomplish by giving Obama a blank check for war?
From the Washington Examiner
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Tim Carney: When a president gets a little, chances are he'll take a lot
Rebecca Berg: Syria forces national security debate in competitive Senate races
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Ashe Schow: Debbie Wasserman Schultz says "dozens" of countries stand with US on Syria, can't name them
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In Other News
Pew: Public Opinion Runs Against Syrian Airstrikes
ABC News: Post-ABC poll finds most Americans oppose Syria strike
The Hill: Pro-Israel group backs military strike on Syria
McClatchy Newspapers: Obama heads to Russia summit seeking Syria support
AP: Putin Warns West On Syria Action
The Wall Street Journal: Mideast Strains Under Weight of Syrian Refugees
The New York Times: Assad Wages War Shielded With a Smile
Politico: Hillary Clinton backs Obama on Syria
Bill Burton gives the progressive case for Syria action.
Greg Sargent says Obama can't take liberals for granted on Syria.
Josh Barro says choosing Summers as Federal Reserve chair would shave 0.5% off GDP and cost 350,000 jobs.
Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. make the case for war with Syria.
The Heritage Foundation on Obama's unreal new Syrian reality.
Erick Erickson explains his opposition to Obama's war on Syria.