Obama echoing George W. Bush's stance
Updated: 2013-09-06 07:05
By Chen Weihua (China Daily)
Former US Congressman Allen West has said President Barack Obama's going to Congress for approval for military action in Syria is intended to make the lawmakers a scapegoat if things go wrong.
That is probably true.
Otherwise, it is hard to explain why Obama has suddenly changed course and taken Congress seriously. Throughout his past four years and seven months in office, Congress has repeatedly tried to block his plans with many successes. In return, Obama rails against Capitol Hill, calling it "increasingly dysfunctional".
But the heated debate in the British Parliament, which finally rejected Prime Minister David Cameron's call for military action against the Syrian government, must have put enormous pressure on Obama to consult Congress. The debate was broadcast live in the US and widely covered by the US media.
However, Obama has never ruled out taking military action without the authorization of Congress. He may still order missile strikes on Syria even if the House shoots down his resolution and if international law is set aside. And there is no indication that Obama will do exactly what David Cameron has done by admitting the defeat and saying, "I get that and government will act accordingly."
Whether he will act without Congress' support, we will only find out when his proposal is rejected by the House.
It is a similar situation with the United Nations.
Obama said in Sweden on Wednesday that he respects the UN process. But if that is the case, why does he insist on bypassing the UN Security Council for a vote that could legitimize military action against Syria under international law?
Even Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who was standing next to him on Wednesday said he opposes military intervention without UN authorization.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said on Wednesday that under the UN Charter, US-led strikes on Syria would be illegal unless authorized by the Security Council or if made in self-defense.
The reason Obama has not gone through the Security Council is clear. His resolution stands no chance of being passed. This is not only because Russia and China want a diplomatic solution to the crisis, it is also because many countries remember how the US and NATO abused the no-fly-zone resolution on Libya two years ago to pursue regime change and they are not convinced by the US allegation that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons.
There is little confidence in US intelligence after the whole world was duped into believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and we are still waiting for the conclusions of the UN investigation into the allegations of chemical weapons use, which could take another two or three weeks.
While the rest of the world looks up to the UN, Obama clearly thinks that the UN Security Council is useful only when it sings the tune the US wants it to.
Obama has also tried to hijack the will of the people by saying: "My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line" and "I didn't set a red line, the world set a deadline." Obama clearly likes to think that he is the world, or at least the US is the world.
It reminds me of George W. Bush's words that "either you are with us, or with the terrorists".
The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily USA 09/06/2013 page15)