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Yesterday the White House released its proposed draft of a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria. The general reaction to it was that it was non-specific and open ended. It does not appear to be playing well even with the president's allies in the Senate where he has a Democratic majority.

Hill briefing: Uphill battle for Obama on Syria

President Barack Obama faces a clear uphill battle in swaying skeptical lawmakers of the merits of military action in Syria, as top officials were dispatched to Capitol Hill Sunday to make the administration’s case.

In response to concern from a swath of lawmakers, Senate Democratic aides are drafting new language for an authorization of military force in Syria, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Sunday.

The administration’s proposal is too open-ended — a complaint many lawmakers aired Sunday — Leahy said after leaving the classified briefing. The current version wouldn’t garner his support, but he indicated that a more tightly written draft might.

The New York Times comes up with a similar analysis.

History Aside, Obama Bets on Congress

Yet now the president has chosen to hand over one of his most pressing foreign policy decisions to the very crowd that has vowed to block him at every turn.

By asking Congress for authorization to retaliate against Syria for using chemical weapons, Mr. Obama has put himself at the mercy of an institution that has bedeviled his presidency for years. He has risked his credibility — at home and abroad — on a bet that Washington’s partisan divisions will take a back seat during this debate. And he has bowed to the reality that some of the loudest demands for a Syria vote have come from his allies on Capitol Hill.

The usual partisan divisions are definitely part of the picture. However, there is the additional complication that a block of liberal Democrats are likely to vote against any military intervention, no matter how restrictively stated the resolution is. It does seem unlikely that Obama will get the resolution that he wants. He hasn't had a lot of success at cutting deals with congress. That raises the possibility that he may get no resolution at all.

He and the people speaking on his behalf continue to insist that as commander in chief he has the constitutional authority to launch a limited attack without congressional approval. However, having asked congress for an authorization, he would find himself in a very difficult position if he chose to defy their refusal to grant it.

The problem with Syria is that very few people see it as a threat to the safety of the American public. That is really the only sure fire convincing argument for an act of war. The support that Obama is getting for his plans comes from the people who want to see the US assert a muscular presence on the geopolitical stage. Obama seems to be having difficulty trying to play the warrior prince and the great conciliator at the same time. It seems unlikely that he can have it both ways.  


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