Charles Karuthammer: Unless he's serious, vote no
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "I can't answer that, what we're seeking."
- Senate hearing on use of force in Syria, Sept. 3.
WE HAVE a problem. The President proposes attacking Syria, and his top military officer cannot tell you the objective. Does the commander in chief know his own objective? Why, yes. "A shot across the bow," explained Barack Obama.
Deterrence depends entirely on perception and the perception in the Middle East is universal: Obama wants no part of Syria.
I had strongly advocated going to Congress. But it was inconceivable that, instead of recalling Congress to emergency session, Obama would simply place everything in suspension while Congress finished its Labor Day barbecues and he flew off to Stockholm and St. Petersburg. So much for the fierce urgency of enforcing an international taboo and speaking for the dead children of Damascus.
How did Israel get away with it? Israel had announced that it would not tolerate Assad acquiring or transferring to Hezbollah advanced weaponry.
And yet here is Obama, having yet done nothing but hesitate, threaten, retract and wander about the stage, claiming Wednesday in Sweden to be the conscience of the world, upholding not his own red line but the world's. And, incidentally, Congress' - a transparent attempt at offloading responsibility.
To his dovish base, Obama insists on how limited and militarily marginal the strike will be. To undecided hawks like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are prepared to support a policy that would really alter the course of the civil war, he vaguely promises the opposite - to degrade Assad's military while upgrading that of the resistance.
This is deeply unserious. Unless Obama can show the country that his don't-mock-me air strike is, in fact, part of a serious strategy for altering the trajectory of the Syrian war, Congress should vote no.
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