Attack on Syria? Three Reasons Why Congress May Not Approve

The USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier which is currently supplemented by biofuel, sails about 150 miles north of the island of Oahu during the RIMPAC Naval exercises off Hawaii July 18,2012. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Obama has challenged Congress to approve an attack on Syria for the release of Chemical Weapons on its people, however Congress may not want to approve the action based on the three reasons listed below:

Weak House: The House tried and failed several times to get war authorization through on Libya. They gave up trying when U.S. military action there ended. And Libya had the backing of the United Nations, NATO and the UK. Getting something through the House on Syria will be even harder than passing approval on Libya. With Libya, there was only moderate public interest in the Congressional machinations, since the authorization was retroactive given that President Obama had already approved U.S. involvement. This time around, all eyes will be on the House and the pressure will be intense. There’s a reason House Speaker John Boehner didn’t call on Obama to seek a vote of approval for action in Syria: This was one nightmare he was keen to avoid.

Splits both parties: Remember the 2004 election when President George W. Bush went around scaring folks about how Democrats were weak on defense? The days where Iraq and Afghanistan were partisan issues have gone. Washington has reverted to a foreign policy more akin to President Clinton’s days where both parties split on intervention. Now, as it was in the 1990′s, you have Democratic doves aligning with isolationist Libertarians. They face off against Republican Hawks and Democratic bleeding hearts. This makes whipping votes complicated, to say the least. It also makes Syria less of a partisan issue, which is the way going to war used to be. By throwing this to Congress, Obama is basically challenging all the backbenchers who have been vociferous in their criticism in the last 10 days—Liberals fearing another Iraq, Hawks saying we need to go farther on regime change—to stand up, be heard and unite behind a military action. It will likely be chaotic. Already two Republican Senate hawks, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, have announced they will not vote to authorize force in Syria unless Obama commits to an “an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the President’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict.” The White House has previously argued that there is no acceptable military solution for the civil war in Syria.

Unpopular: Polls show most Americans don’t want to see any kind of intervention in Syria, so if Congress votes to support this, they will be going against their constituents’ wishes, which is never easy especially for those up for reelection. Members are going to have to defend the intelligence and make the case to their supporters why it’s important to do this. To that end, a limited engagement is better, as they can make the argument that this isn’t the beginning of another decade of war.

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