international affairs

President Obama Will Ask Congress for Permission to Attack Syria [Updated]

I have decided that the United States should take action against Syrian military targets,” announced President Obama in a Saturday afternoon Rose Garden address during which he called Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s apparent use of chemical weapons “an assault on human dignity” and a “serious danger to our national security.” But a U.S. attack on Syria will not take place immediately, as many had expected: Obama also announced that he will see congressional approval before taking action. “We are prepared to strike whenever we choose,” said Obama, who explained that American action would “limited in duration and scope” and would “not put boots on the ground.” While Obama said he still believes he has the right to launch a strike without a sign-off from Congress, he has concluded that “the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.” 

Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?” he went on. “Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorists who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?” Obama finished the speech by saying, “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.” 

Congress reconvenes on September 9, and House Speaker John Boehner released a statement saying he expects the House to “consider a measure” on military intervention in Syria that week. “This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people,” he added. Whether that measure can pass the deeply divided House is unclear — especially with everyone currently on vacation — but Obama’s decision to seek their backing is popular both on the Hill and with the American people, 80 percent of whom wanted the President to see congressional approval, according to a NBC poll.

Obama Will Seek Congressional Approval on Syria