Thursday, 05 September 2013 14:08

Obama and Congress cross Syrian red line or Commander in Solo?

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redlineNational issues are taking a back seat to international affairs.  The civil war in Syria is now on the minds of our leaders as President Obama has asked Congress to authorize a strike against Syria for the use of chemical weapons against its own civilians.  The president says he does not need congressional authorization to attack Syria, but he is asking Congress to give him the authority anyway.  


 Tuesday afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its approval to a resolution authorizing such military action.  Approval by both houses of Congress, however, is far from certain. 

While this debate drags on, Syria is no doubt moving its military weapons, including its chemical weapons, to safe zones, like hospitals, schools, nursing homes, residential neighborhoods, downtown Damascus, and maybe even to its ally Iran, places it perceives as safe from U.S. military attack. 

Several weeks ago President Barack Obama said that the movement or use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad and his regime would cross a red line that would "change my calculus." ( on September 4, 2013.)  The administration states it has “high certainty” such a weapon was used by the Syrian government. 

Our biggest ally in the world, Britain, has taken a pass on any military strike against Syria.  The Russians, on the other hand, are strongly behind the Syrian regime.  So too are the Iranians. 

Many now worry that the United States is on the brink of a full scale war and that at the end of the day our soldiers will be asked to fight once again in another country that is incapable of extricating itself from its own civil war.  So is a U.S. military strike against Syria a worthy goal or is it a big mistake?  I say it is a mistake. 

The strike being debated in Congress now will not be enough.  If President Obama truly believes that military action is warranted then he should use the maximum fire power available to the U.S. to hit Syria and cripple that nation.  A limited strike, which is being debated now, will impede the Syrian government's war effort, but it will not stop it.  Furthermore, if the strike does not devastate the government of Syria, Bashar al-Assad will be emboldened and believe he can withstand any future attacks from the West. 

Additionally, a U.S. military attack raises big concerns.  How do we react if Iran launches an attack on our military or on Israel in retaliation, or if Russian soldiers or citizens are killed while manning sites targeted by the U.S.?  What happens then?  Are we at war with Russia or Iran or both? 

How does Mr. Obama proceed if the full Congress refuses to give him the authority he seeks?  He says he can authorize a military strike anyway.  Such a strike on such terms would be a huge military and political mistake.  Once Mr. Obama asked Congress for its consent to strike Syria, he put his fate in their hands; and he must live with their decision.  He cannot act on his own. 

Attacking Syria is not in our best interest, and Congress should not authorize a military strike by the United States against Syria.   It was not Congress that drew a line in the sand.  It was President Obama.  He should have consulted Congress first before giving an ultimatum.  Now he must rely on Congress to bail him out.

Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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