President Barack Obama put Congress in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar position. He is asking lawmakers to make a decision and be held accountable for their action.
Obama wants Congress to endorse his plan for an airstrike against Syria, for the government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens.
Turning to ask Congress for its support was a deft political move. Congress is quick to criticize the president, but reluctant to act — on anything.
Already the White House has received the support of House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, has signed on — if the president will also arm rebels.
All without a hearing held or a question asked in public about the nature of the assault or what might come next.
Congress should be willing to say “no.” Did Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan teach any lessons?
The rest of the world is eager to cheer on U.S. military action but pointedly unwilling to carry out the attack.
Congress is obligated to ask out loud why this task falls to the U.S. military alone.
Hold hearings that take testimony from administration officials and challenge their findings, plans and expectations. Does the White House truly expect this to be a tidy, effective, one-time-only use of force to make its point?
Can Congress even write a resolution that is narrowly defined and limited to one military strike?
The pattern has been for congressional consultations, when sought, to be exploited as open-ended permission to act as the commander in chief sees fit.
Congress also needs to explain why the heinous use of chemical weapons crosses a line not exceeded by conventional slaughter and all manner of deprivation against civilian populations in Syria and elsewhere.
If Syria must be punished, let others in the region and the world take the lead.
Congress fails to accept responsibility for its basic financial duties and oversight of government. Syria takes a diminished institution completely out of its depth.