Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I'm Shocked -- Shocked!

That GOP House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor are supporting US president Barack Obama's proposal for US military intervention in Syria.

It's easy to figure out why the usual suspects -- John McCain and Lindsay Graham in the Senate being the two most obvious examples -- are all for it. They've never met a Military-Industrial Complex Welfare Act they didn't like.

But in this matter you can count on even those politicians usually most predisposed to fight against anything Obama wants to assume the position and take one for the team.

The team being Congress, of course.

We're coming up on the 40th anniversary of final passage of the War Powers Resolution, over Richard Nixon's veto.

The executive branch's position on the Resolution is that it's an unconstitutional curb on the president's power.

Congress's position should have been that the president doesn't get to go to war without a congressional declaration of war, as clearly called for in the US Constitution. But Congress doesn't like the Constitution much, either, and wants to be able to go to war without calling it war ... but only if they, not the president, say so. Thus the resolution.

For 40 years now, presidents and congresses have played a recurring game of chicken in which Congress always swerves:

A president wants to go to war. He either asks Congress, knowing they will give him what he wants ... or he just goes ahead and does it, knowing they will retroactively approve (or at least grudgingly fund) his adventure rather than take the political risk of trying to impeach him and remove him from office.

This time, the president is trying to fake Congress out -- pledging to ask permission (because he wouldn't want the Brits to out-democracy the US), while simultaneously having the White House push the line that he really doesn't have to ask permission. Which leaves open the possibility that if they say "no," he'll just do it anyway.

So, the GOP's "leaders" are cutting the VW Microbus's wheel hard toward the shoulder and yelling at the back-benchers to shut up and quit shifting their weight toward the center line. Because if Congress says no and Obama goes all Eric Cartman on them, we've got ourselves a "constitutional crisis."

My prediction -- made elsewhere around the blogosphere and repeated here -- is that if the vote looks like it might not go Obama's way, another "incident" will be drummed up which requires "immediate (before Congress can vote) military response," which will create pressure on fence-sitters to "back the president ... the debate must stop at the water's edge ... after all, we're at war here!"

In fact, I'm more than half way convinced that an attempt to create such an incident occurred this morning when Israel "test-fired" a missile in the eastern Mediterranean. Whatever it was, it wasn't a "test" of a missile. It was either a test of Syria's incoming missile detection capabilities (Syria's Russian allies detected the launch; so far as I can tell the Assad regime itself has been silent on whether or not its own forces did), or it was an attempt to goad Assad into a response that could be used a la  the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident.

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