I had an interesting discussion with BBC Radio this morning about President Obama’s decision to seek authorisaton from Congress for a response to the August 21 chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime.
The interviewer focused on the domestic implications of the President’s decision, e.g., “Does this show Obama as a consensual politician?”. My concern — given that it will be at least two weeks before Congress might give approval for even an airstrike “limited in scope and duration” — was on the significance for the situation inside Syria.
1. “This isn’t about domestic politics. This is about not only an incident in which 1400 people died in a chemical weapons attack last month but also a conflict in which 80,000 people have died in 2 1/2 years. Having a nice image at home is one thing; doing something effective about a crisis for Syria and the region is another.”
2. “The bigger question is whether you support insurgents, not with airstrikes but with military supplies to overthrow the Assad regime.”
3. “At the end of the day, I think Obama will get Congressional authorization for a fairly weak mandate, whether or not he chooses to use it. I don’t think that’s going to resolve the wider issues. We are probably going to be here three months from now, six months, a year from now still talking about Syria — and President Obama’s steps, and what Congress does about them, in the next two weeks are going to be peripheral.”