As President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry sell the Syria military strike, elements within Washington remain hesitant, if not hostile. (Image Sources: Reuters, Talk News Radio Service, CSIS)
On Saturday, President Barack Obama announced that he will indeed be seeking congressional action on authorizing a military strike on Syria, following a chemical weapons attack in eastern Damascus in the midst of the country's civil war. By law, the Constitution requires that President Obama gain congressional approval in order to send ships or troops to Syria, arguably to attack Bashar al-Assad's regime that he claims is responsible for the attack. However, the response from the United States Congress has been mixed at best. Many remain undecided on what kind of strike would be acceptable, and there are some arguing that a bill on striking Syria militarily would not even pass the House if taken today.
Support for a military strike is spread between Democrats and Republicans, but the specifics remain unknown. It is known that leading Republicans such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are both interested in a military strike, with McCain expressing that rejecting a Syria strike would be "catastrophic." However, many other members of Congress, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, want a narrower scope of operations, and an actual plan of action before they press the matter forward. Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi simply want something done.
In addition, heavy opposition remains imminent from all sides, but particularly from Republicans. Both Senators James Inhofe and Rand Paul, well known for taking an anti-interventionist stance in recent years, both expressed complete rejection of any form of intervention in Syria. Senator Paul went so far as to use Secretary of State John Kerry's words while he was a protesting Vietnam vet against him. This came on Meet the Press Sunday right after Kerry was on the show to market the strike to the talk show circuit.
Much of the opposition against a military strike in Syria stands from the intelligence of the Assad regime's role in the chemical attacks, which is filled with holes; a war-weary public, who are still reeling from the Iraq and Afghan wars; the question of whether a military strike will do anything to help either side, and which side at that; and the fact that an intervention would ironically aid al-Qaeda, who is allied with rebels in northern Syria.
In addition, a leading House Republican, who asked not to be named, suggested that Obama would not have the votes in the House of Representaives to pass any resolution regarding a military strike in Syria if a bill were held today. The lawmaker suggested that Boehner would bring the bill to a vote regardless of whether or not the majority of Republicans support the bill, eschewing a recent Republican tradition known as the "Hastert rule." This move may suggest that the vote is to be done as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Congress returns from its summer recess next Monday, September 9, and will begin debating the military strike resolution. Hopefully, by then, everyone will know who in fact used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in eastern Damascus, whether it is the Assad regime, a rogue element of the Syrian army, or even the Syrian rebels.