In the 1930s, Bertolt Brecht asked in a poem “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” The question today is of course silly. The United States will always be there for a war. In the first rejection of a request for military action since 1782, the Parliament voted 285 to 272 against approving a military strike against Syria. Undeterred, the White House today is saying that it is considering just bombing the country on its own and throwing aside any pretense of an international effort. By the way, that last time Parliament refused further military action was when the Crown was fighting a collection of colonies in the New World who, after independence, strongly opposed “foreign entanglements” and military ventures. The United States of America.
As we discussed yesterday, this appears a war designed to save face for Obama. While news reports indicate that Obama’s reference to a “red line” was not in his original speech, it committed the country to act if chemical weapons were used in Syria. I spoke to a reporter working at the Pentagon two days ago who told me that military leaders are heavily opposed to the ultimatum and to military action. However, it is now embarrassing for the President and the White House wants to show that he will not be ignored or mocked — even if it is a lesson that will cost over $1 billion and risk a wider war.
Of course Obama has his allies in Congress like Nancy Pelosi and the media like David Ignatius at the Washington Post who says military action is necessary simply because “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad overrode a clear American warning against such use of chemical weapons.” So we need to enter another war “to demonstrate that there are consequences for crossing a U.S. ‘red line.’ Otherwise, the coherence of the global system begins to dissolve.” The point is simple. The world must obey our commands and we are not to be mocked. It is the ultimate expression of American exceptionalism.
In a bizarre gesture, the White House is now promising just a limited strike or a “shot across the bow.” It is as if we are saying to the world “just let us do this as a gesture and we will be satisfied.”
Notably, England still gets a vote on military action. Since that last vote in 1782, the United States has created an Imperial President while England has evolved into a more democratic system. The Framers must be looking down in utter confusion.