sounds good today, can bite you in the backside tomorrow. If he hadn’t drawn that red line with Syria, would he be considering a military strike now? Don’t know, of course. But words do matter.
“Sending signals” was never one of my favorite things when I was in the government. Say what you’re going to do, that was one of my favorite things. Transparency. People then know where you stand. They don’t have to interpret a signal.
But when the president drew his red line and then Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, that line was crossed. There has to be a consequence not because the president drew the line, but because the world needs to know there are severe consequences for using chemical weapons. The president today broadened his “red line” to say he didn't draw it, the world drew the red line. Here’s his quote from a year ago:
"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."
I don’t say this to point a finger at the president. But if the world was drawing the line, no one had a vote but him
publicly. I agree with a strategic military response to the chemical weapon use. I also have no problem with him drawing a red line.
But he’s trying to rewrite history. Maybe a year ago he should have built, or started building, the coalition he should have for a response to Syria. When George H.W. Bush decided to push Iraq out of Kuwait back in 1991, he did it and had a strategy to get it done quickly. There was a chorus back then that once he pushed them out he should have marched to Baghdad to do more. But, President Bush knew that would crack his coalition apart, so he didn’t do it. He showed strong leadership and the world, and the American people, respected him for it. He said what he was going to do, he did it, and
he didn’t do more or less.
Personally, I would not have gone to the Congress to seek its approval or consent or agreement or whatever he is seeking. My non-legal view: the president has the right to take such an action without the Congress’approval. This will only complicate matters. Assuming the White House and leadership on the Hill can pull together enough votes to back up the president’s line-drawing, he will be stronger for it. If the Congress doesn’t vote in his favor, what then?