CONGRESS’ CRUCIAL VOTE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CUT OFF THE EXECUTIVE’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR MONGERING, WHICH HAS BEEN IN PLACE SINCE THE COLD WAR … PLUS … OBAMA’S FOREIGN POLICY FAILURES SHOULD MAKE IT EASY TO SAY ‘NO’ ON THE SYRIAN QUESTION
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, SEPT. 6, 2013) — With President Barack Obama at the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, you can bet he and his staff will try to lobby world leaders into support for an attack on Syria. You can also be sure the President will meet with resistance. Push will meet Pull, then Putin, the “Putz!” The world will tell the U.S.: “You wanna be stupid? Go ahead. Be our guest.”
The U.S. Congress, back in session on Monday, will watch with anticipation every inflection of voice and each movement in body language of the Push-Pull-Putin-Putz to pick up on how it’s going over there. The Congress faces a crucial vote on war.
The centerpiece of the G-20 action will be what happens between Obama, who wants to go in, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who aims to prevent such an action. As it stands, it seems that most of the world is against a U.S. invasion. That would include four out of five Americans, if polls can be believed. Simply put, the U.S. taxpayers and much of the rest of the world are war weary. We also need to ask the hard question: Why this war? Why now? Who will profit from us going in? Following the money is always insightful.
Obama has yet to make a compelling case why the internal actions of a sovereign nation should be a matter for the U.S. to sort out. The Syrian civil war should stay in Syria. This is the Middle East, for Crimea Out Loud, a region of the world made of Brillo pads, razor wire, power kegs, and live embers. Do we really want to go in there, however “surgically,” and fan the sparks into flames with our drones and our in-and-out bombers (the bombs, by the way, have no “out,” only “in”). The U.S. has no dog in the fight, but Obama wants to make it seem that if we send the hounds in, it’s the same thing. It’s not, or have we forgotten that a dozen years later, the U.S. still finds itself mired down in the mountainous Afghanistan tar pit?
Speaking of Russia, Obama can take credit for having totally botched our relations with the Red Bear. When one reporter in St. Petersburg asked the President what went wrong with Obama’s supposed “reset” in relations with the East, which the President make into a big deal during the 2012 campaign, all Obama could muster was, “We’ve kind of hit a wall.” Putin has played Obama the way Horowitz played Chopin on the ivories. used to play the . On Obama’s schedule for today is a meeting with Russian human rights activists, something Putin and his government will surely regard as a slap in the face.
Obama seems utterly inept at foreign policy. The “Obama was dealt a difficult hand” argument, which had some merit in 2008, can no longer be held up as an excuse. The President has had five years at the helm. THE PLANET doesn’t buy it that line of thinking any longer.
It hard to believe that The Administration actually advocates military intervention in Syria. Consider:
* A strike against Syria will weaken an already shaky Jordan.
* Obama’s people couldn’t get their story straight on what happened in Libya.
* He has failed to engage Iran.
* Iraq is in a disastrous state.
* Afghanistan has turned into Obama’s war. The U.S. has no chance of winning and never did.
* Relations with our hemispheric partners, Mexico and Latin America, have suffered because of Obama’s foreign policy. Remember “Fast and Furious?”
* China continues to eat our lunch economically.
* Obama has what writer Will Inboden calls a “puzzling lack of close personal relationships with other world leaders, which contributes to a diplomatic deficit.” The writer cites “Obama’s past hollow threats and ‘red lines’ on Syria [that] have eroded American credibility and now regrettably make a diplomatic solution to that war all but impossible.”
* Obama can take credit for getting Osama bin Laden. However, as U.S. News and World Report wrote, Obama’s politicization of the event turned it into the equivalent of Bush’s ill-advised “Mission Accomplished” speech in 2003. Yes, Osama is dead. But yes, the world is no safer. It hardly has made a difference.
* The Arab Spring uprisings caught the Obama Administration by total surprise.
* Obama has continued, rather than reversed, America’s loss of world stature, begun so ineptly by President George W. Bush.
* Obama has made no progress, and when all is said and done, will probably be thrown for a three yard loss on the Israel-Palestine conundrum. The two-state solution, which the President rightly touted as a candidate, has become all but impossible during his years in office. It didn’t have to be this way. The Arab Spring should have given Obama strong leverage in dealing with both sides.
* Should we even mention Pakistan? This is a nation, lest we forget, that’s a proud (though ignorant and corrupt) member of the Nuclear Bomb club. Obama underwrote the notoriously corrupt government there, turning Pakistan into a country virulent in its anti-Americanism.
* North Korea, an Obama priority in 2009 (e.g., the appointment of “special envoys”), remains a mysterious, rogue nation that uses punctuated stages of contentiousness as a substitute for diplomacy. No change from Bush.
Finally, consider what Steven Walt in FP: Foreign Policy calls the issue of “America’s Standing.” He writes:
Obama has resurrected the U.S. image from its Bush-era lows, but there really was nowhere to go but up. While it’s true that the percentage of people with a favorable view of America has increased almost everywhere except the Middle East, the more important point is that fewer and fewer people trust Uncle Sam’s judgment these days. Asian countries still want U.S. protection from a rising China (for good old-fashioned balance of power reasons), but does anybody respect our views on human rights after Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, or our increasing reliance on drone attacks? Who wants to follow our lead on how to run an economy, or regulate the financial sector? American democracy used to attract admiration, but not even Americans are wild about how our political institutions are functioning these days. Obama is obviously more popular abroad than Bush ever was, but the ecstatic hopes that greeted his election (and won him a pre-emptive Nobel Prize) have been dashed and his early charisma has faded. You might give him a passing grade overall on this broad subject, but he doesn’t make the honor roll. … The president has done well in those relatively minor areas where domestic politics do not loom large and where he can exercise unilateral authority. But on the more important and more difficult issues where you would have to convince the American people to follow a new path, he’s come up mostly empty.
In light of this discussion, we leave you with these words, from President Obama himself:
As president, I have to address both domestic policy and foreign policy. Because of the way that the commander-in-chief role has evolved, I have far fewer political constraints on foreign policy action than domestic policy action. So let’s think about this for a second. On the foreign stage, America’s standing has returned from its post-Iraq low. Al Qaeda is now a shell of its former self. Liberalizing forces are making uneven but forward progress in North Africa. Muammar Qaddafi’s regime is no longer, without one American casualty. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are winding down. Every country in the Pacific Rim without a Communist Party running things is trying to hug us closer.
Imagine what I could accomplish in domestic policy without the kind of obstructionism and filibustering that we’re seeing in Congress — which happens to be even more unpopular than I am, by the way. I’m not talking about the GOP abjectly surrendering, mind you, just doing routine things like subjecting my nominees to a floor vote in the Senate. I’ve achieved significant foreign policy successes while still cooperating with our allies in NATO and Northeast Asia. Just imagine what I could get done if the Republicans were as willing to compromise as, say, France.
Cooperation? It didn’t happen.
THE PLANET hopes that Congress contains the Executive’s war mongering, an unchecked power that’s gone on since the days of the Cold War. Congress can take a bold, courageous, and principled stand by reeling the Administration and saying “No” to war. It may be a first, important step in a “reset” of the “Respect” button for the Constitution.
“Lay me on an anvil, O God. / Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar. / Let me pry loose old walls. / Let me lift and loosen old foundations.” — Carl Sandburg, “Prayers of Steel,” (1918).
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.