US interventionism is increasingly unpopular. Obama hoped G20 leaders would back his Syrian attack plan. He learned otherwise. He met stiff opposition.
Belligerence is increasingly rejected. America makes more enemies than friends. On September 6, The New York Times headlined “Obama Stymied in Bid to Rally World Leaders on Syria Strike.”
He met more opposition than support. “After a dinner debate that lasted into the early morning hours of Friday, Mr. Obama emerged with a few supporters but no consensus.”
Most G20 leaders oppose attacking Syria. They do so without Security Council authorization.
“Even France, which has offered the strongest support to Mr. Obama of the European allies, on Friday said that it would not strike Syria as part of a coalition until the United Nations completes its work on assessing the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria.”
It’s expected to take at least two more weeks. It’ll report on whether toxic substances were found. It’ll do so short of attribution.
Obama’s failure to rally world leaders’ support makes it tougher to do so at home. Congressional members are being carpet bombed with constituent opposition.
Obama’s more isolated than any time before. He’s in “the awkward position of defending” what most Americans oppose.
Congressional support is waning. Unilateralism isn’t selling well. Obama acknowledged his unpopular position.
He’s on the wrong side of history. He’ll give it another go next Tuesday. He’ll deliver a nationally televised address on Syria.
He’ll lie like he always does. Americans are increasingly more savvy. At least they are this time. It shows in opinion polls. They overwhelming oppose attacking Syria.
They do so for good reason. They’re tired of wars with no end. They want peace. They want jobs. They want US resources spent to create them.
Selling war falls increasingly on deaf ears. At a Friday St. Petersburg news conference, Obama tried again, saying:
“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can use WMD(s) and not pay a consequence.”
“And that’s not a world we want to live in.” According to The New York Times:
“(M)uch of the world, at least as represented at the Group of 20 meeting did not favor Mr. Obama’s proposed course of action.”
Vladimir Putin cited South African President Jacob Zuma’s comments, saying:
” ‘Small countries in today’s world in general are feeling increasingly vulnerable and unprotected. There is an impression any superpower at any moment at its discretion may use force.’ And he’s right.”
“I can assure you – and the latest polls say this as well – the overwhelming majority of the populations in these countries is on our side,” he added.
Obama headed home Friday night. According to The Times, “he braced himself for what advisers consider one of the most critical Congressional debates of his presidency.”
“I knew this was going to be a heavy lift,” he said. “I was under no illusions when I embarked on this path.”
“But I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s good for our democracy. We will be more effective if we are unified going forward.”
Weeks earlier, Obama expected much more support. Whether he was blindsided in St. Petersburg isn’t clear.
Lawless aggression is wrong, not right. It’s bad, not good. It harms America. It makes it less safe. It makes more enemies than friends. It puts a lie to US democracy.
Attacking Syria risks regional conflict. It risks spreading it globally. It risks what no sensible leader should dare.
Selling what demands condemnation increasingly isolates America. Obama may face a fight to save his presidency. His legacy’s already pockmarked. It exceeds the worst of all his predecessors.
He’s shooting himself in the foot on Syria. The harder he sells Big Lies, the less support he gets. It’s true at home and abroad.
London’s Guardian headlined “G20: frosty stares betray anger and mistrust over Syria,” saying:
St. Petersburg featured heated interchanges, “bilaterals, plenaries, brush-bys, informals, dinners, light and dance shows and quick chats between 20 world leaders attending.”
Before Obama arrived, Putin called John Kerry a liar. “And he knows he lies,” said Putin.
By the time he greeted Obama, “the US president was ready to deliver the death stare. They managed 15 seconds of pleasantries.”
“Elsewhere, Obama was greeted by a chorus of dissent from other world leaders urging him to show restraint.”
“And what of Cameron? It was in St Petersburg, at an earlier G8 summit, that President George Bush famously greeted Tony Blair “Yo, Blair.”
“After his ignominious and mishandled defeat in the Commons last week, relations between the current UK prime minister and US president are more strained.”
Obama emerged from St. Petersburg weak. On September 6, London’s Guardian headlined “Obama assembles fragile alliance blaming Assad for chemical attacks.”
Most G20 countries oppose military action. Major ones include Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa, Argentina, Indonesia, Germany and Italy.
Obama’s support comes largely from France, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Australia. UK Prime Minister David Cameron backs him. Britain’s parliament opposes military action.
Obama expressed frustration saying:
“It’s conceivable at the end of the day I don’t persuade a majority of the American people that it’s the right thing to do.”
“And then each member of Congress is going to have to decide.”
Obama, his aides and John Kerry sent mixed messages. Earlier he said he’d act with or without Security Council and congressional approval.
From St. Petersburg he said he put the issue before Congress “because (he) could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States.”
On Thursday, John Kerry said:
“Constitutionally, every president, Republican and Democrat alike, has always reserved to the presidency, to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the right to make a decision with respect to American security.”
Obama “reserves the right to respond as appropriate to protect the security of our nation.”
In other words, he can act unilaterally, says Kerry. Claiming it’s for national security doesn’t wash. It doesn’t matter.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden equivocated, saying:
“There is no change in our position. As the president has said, he has the authority to act, but his intention is to do so with the approval of the Congress.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said:
“The president of course has the authority to act but it’s neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”
At the same time, the Senate joint resolution authorizing force against Syria says:
“(T)he President has authority under the Constitution to use force in order to defend the national security interests of the United States.”
Senate Democrats drafted the resolution. They violated constitutional law doing so.
Under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause (Article VI, clause 2), all international laws and treaties are the “supreme Law of the Land.”
UN Charter provisions prohibit attacking another country except in self-defense. It can do so until the Security Council acts. It has final say.
Congress may pass no laws violating international or constitutional provisions.
If House and Senate members authorize force on Syria, they’ll do so unconstitutionally. They’ll do it against popular opposition.
They’ll do it despite most world leaders calling for addressing the Syrian crisis diplomatically. Whether they’ll do it remains up for grabs.
A previous article suggested Obama’s heading for congressional defeat. Senate authorization is likely. House opposition is strong.
Around half its members ruled out support or said they’re unlikely to back it. Only 44 House members said they’ll definitely or likely authorize attacking Syria.
Heavy constituent pressure gives representatives reason for pause. If Congress votes no, Obama will be weaker than ever. He’ll face two bad choices:
- accept an embarrassing climbdown, or
- defy Congress, popular opposition, as well as core international and constitutional law.
Either way it’s lose, lose. It’s about time. His comeuppance is long overdue. His rap sheet includes egregious crimes of war and against humanity. They’re too grave to ignore
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