Pro-Israel groups are lining up behind Obama's push to authorize a pinprick wristslap something or other on Syria. Part of the rationale is this:
Jewish groups said their concern was that a failure to take action against Syria would send lessons to other countries, most notably Iran, that they could act with impunity.
“This is a critical moment when America must also send a forceful message of resolve to Iran and Hezbollah,” AIPAC said in its statement, referring to the Lebanese militia group the U.S. characterizes as a terrorist organization. “Failure to approve this resolution would weaken our country’s credibility to prevent the use and proliferation of unconventional weapons and thereby greatly endanger our country’s security and interests and those of our regional allies.”
Team Obama has made this argument as well. I see two problems.
The immediate issue is that it is not enough that the US imposes a cost on Syria for using chemical weapons. The cost must be high enough to actually deter future use, but not so high that we bring down the government and allow Al Qaeda affiliated rebel groups to carry the day. Obama may be an avid golfer but I don't think he knows what club to pick for this shot.
But more importantly, what message has Obama's irresolution already sent the Iranians? Their takeawy will be that Obama can talk all he eants but iuntil the US Congress gets involved no action is imminent.
With that lesson already learned, if Obama and his backers want to send a message to Iran they need to start by sending a resolution to Congress authorizing action against Iran. Establish Presidential authority now, rather than after a lot of empty bluster about red lines drawn by someone else.
This will make it clear to Iran's leaders that the US Congress really has drawn a red line and the President is authorized to enforce it. And this early authorization would be entirely consistent with Obama's current approach of inviting Congress in before the fact rather than ignoring them (as in Libya) or dealing with them after the fact, as required by the War Powers Act:
The War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. The resolution was passed by two-thirds of Congress, overriding a presidential veto. The War Powers Resolution has been violated in the past by President Reagan in regards to the aid to the Contras in Nicaragua and by President Clinton in 1999, during the bombing campaign in Kosovo. All incidents have had congressional disapproval, but none have had any successful legal actions taken against the president for violations.
Well. No one expects Obama to apply his current "principle" consistently; the circumstances and more especially the politics of an attack to disarm a nuclear Iran may be quite different. But the fact that Obasma is not making any effort to send a message to the other countries supposedly learning something from our response to Syria provides one more indication of just how political and unserious this charade really is.