Will Obama Attack Syria Even If Vote Fails in Congress?

Will Obama Attack SyriaGrassroots pressure has forced President Obama to seek approval from Congress for an attack on Syria. But Obama is hell-bent on ordering a missile assault on that country, and he has two very important aces in the hole.

The administration is about to launch a ferocious propaganda blitz that will engulf a wide range of U.S. media. And as a fallback, the president is reserving the option of attacking Syria no matter what Congress does.

Until Obama’s surprise announcement Saturday that he will formally ask Congress for authorization of military action against Syria, the impassioned pitches from top U.S. officials in late August seemed to be closing arguments before cruise missiles would hit Syrian targets. But the pre-bombing hyper spin has just gotten started.

The official appeals for making war on yet another country will be ferocious. Virtually all the stops will be pulled out; all kinds of media will be targeted; every kind of convoluted argument will be employed.

Hell hath no fury like war-makers scorned. Simmering rage will be palpable from political elites who do not want to see Congress set an unprecedented precedent: thwarting the will of a president who wants Pentagon firepower unleashed on another country.

President Obama and top Democrats such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will twist every arm they can to get a “yes” vote for attacking Syria. Meanwhile, most mainline media pundits, numbingly addicted to war, will often chastise and denigrate foes of authorization.

But we have a real chance to prevent a U.S. attack. One cogent argument after another, from intelligence veterans and policy analysts and weapons experts, has debunked the messaging for war on Syria. And some members of Congress — not nearly enough, but some — have begun to speak up with cogent opposition.

One of NPR’s inside-the-box hosts of “All Things Considered” on August 30 asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) about the Obama administration’s claim that missile strikes on Syria would be “a limited action” and not “war.” Congresswoman Lofgren replied: “I think that anyone who argues that shooting missiles and dropping bombs on another country is not an act of war has got some further education warranted. If somebody shot cruise missiles at Washington for only one day, we would still consider it an act of war, wouldn’t we?”

Not many members of Congress have Lofgren’s clarity, and many of their votes on authorization are up for grabs. Each of us can help affect the outcome by demanding that our senators and representative oppose the war resolution. We should make our voices heard in all sorts of public venues.

The president’s move for a congressional vote should cause a major escalation of anti-war activism. A straw in the wind: during just a few hours after Obama’s announcement on Saturday afternoon, nearly 10,000 people took the initiative via RootsAction.org to email members of Congress with a “No Attack on Syria” message.

National opinion polling and momentum inside Congress indicate that we can defeat Obama’s war resolution. It’ll be a tremendous fight, but we can prevail.

But even if Obama loses the vote in Congress, there’s a very real danger that he will proceed with ordering an attack on Syria.

Burying the lead almost a dozen paragraphs into a September 1 news story, the New York Times mentioned in passing: “White House officials indicated that Mr. Obama might still authorize force even if Congress rejected it.”

A careful reading of Obama’s Rose Garden announcement on Saturday verifies that he never quite said he will abide by the decision of Congress if it refuses to approve an attack on Syria. Instead, the president filled his statement with hedging phrases, detouring around any such commitment with words like these:

  • “I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. … And I’m prepared to give that order. But … I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”
  • “I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
  • Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.” 
  • “And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.” 
  • norman solomon“I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”

At the grassroots, people across the United States will be working very hard to prevent congressional approval of an attack on Syria. That activism is imperative. But we should also understand that Obama has not committed himself to abide by the decision that Congress makes.

Norman Solomon

Sunday, 1 September 2013


  1. weshallovercomb says

    Obama will ignore Congress if they vote against his desire to bomb Syria and he’ll do it to “save face”. And because of Obama’s ego, we will engage in and start a regional war with no end in sight. So everyone who voted for Obama who is against his involving our country in Syria’s civil war should be speaking out, NOW. But they won’t, will they. Because it’s hard for them to face the fact that Obama may end up making Dubya looking more like Ghandi compared to what Obama is about to engage us in, with the MIddle East. God help us all. We have no business getting involved. And where are our allies??? Jordan, Turkey, Arab League? They hold our coats while we involve our military. The entire saga is making me sick to my stomach and Obama is indecisive and is the definition of a non-leader.

  2. JoeWeinstein says

    I salute the eloquent open ‘letter to Obama’ that Mr Solomon recently gave us in regards Ms/Mr Manning.

    And now on the matter of Syria I join with everyone else in celebrating the fact that even Obama has finally seen the need (at least for reasons of pragmatism if not of conscience) in conforming to the Constitution – despite dealing with a
    Congress that mostly doesn’t care and a nation of sheep that largely doesn’t
    know the difference.

    But Mr Solomon here is engaging in the very sort of thing he’s complaining might come from Obama – propaganda.

    It’s propaganda when the least sort of USA military action automatically gets dissed as ‘war on Syria’.

    Duh – for the last thirty months there’s been a ‘war on Syria’ in deadly progress. It’s been waged by Assad, with the help of Russia and Iran – who – thanks in large part to the utter passivity of Obama-style USA – have been enabled to produce 100,000 Syrian dead and millions of displaced.

    Some readers and writers here are committed religiously and ideologically to the proposition that, no matter what the particular facts of the particular case,
    whatever is done overseas in the name of the USA is and will be inherently
    evil, and that all opposition to it – including and especially from the most
    retrograde tyrants, thugs and theocratic fanatics – is inherently praiseworthy.
    For these readers, anything military that the USA will do against these tyrants
    qualifies as ‘USA starting a war’ and therefore in their book is utterly evil.
    (For those readers, it’s ok when those thugs actually start wars but it’s not
    OK when the USA responds in kind.)

    But for those who are willing to look at the facts in this case, there’s a better
    alternative than flailing against USA action for Syria. The USA now should and actually could conduct not a ‘war ON Syria’ but rather a long-overdue limited but speedy and sufficient action FOR Syria by a quick ‘War on Assad’ and his top henchmen.

  3. Darren Defaoite says

    The ‘moral/political’ debate concerning U.S. intervention in Syria, seems to revolve around “Assad used chemical weapons to kill innocents!!” vs. “We can’t get involved in another open ended, complex regional war” These seem to me both false and Amoral. Are we saying it’s not such a problem if Assad only uses conventional munitions? The west intervenes all the time in the middle east.

    I’m anti war, but the debate seems false to me. ‘Who makes and supplies weapons around the world and what violent regimes do they prop up?’ are debates that need to be had. Slogans like “not in our name” take on more complex meanings when you have an honest look at those issues.

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