Eight Days

Did you hear or read about the President’s address on Syria in the Rose Garden yesterday? The President (emphasis added):

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

…while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.

…if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing… We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us… I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate.

His own advisors were surprised, apparently, that the President chose to go to Congress. The political advisors worry that Congress won’t help, as they haven’t helped with anything, ever, and would cripple the rest of the Administration’s legislative agenda. The military advisors are pessimistic about international support improving given the (any?) outcome of a Congressional vote.

So if I’m reading this correctly, the President is demonstrating an overriding faith in:

  • himself (in being able to make the case to use and concretely define “limited, narrow” military action in Syria)
  • Congress (in being able to think about any world beyond their own re-election)
  • voters (in being able to pay attention, think, and make their opinions known to Congress)
  • the international community (in being able to forgive the United States for its past colossal f-ups).

He believes we can all come together under his leadership, and we can show the Syrian regime that they won’t get away with what they’ve done (and neither would, say, Iran, were it to try something similar, or worse).

I wrote earlier about why I supported then Senator Obama back when he was running for President. (Prudence. Caution.)

In requesting Congressional authority for military action in Syria, which is an attempt to demonstrate to the world (and to the United States) what the United States of America is, what it is supposed to be, is he rising to the majestic heights of “meeting physical force with soul force?”

Congress is back in session on September 9. Eight days.

“Shot across the Bow”

Is it possible that talking about what the US government might do in response to Syria’s apparent large-scale use of chemical weapons is in fact the response? Apparently the Syrian government is “moving” things around. Could that mean that the use of chemical weapons has stopped, at least for now? Hoping so. For now.

the thin red line

This is worth a re-read, or a first read.

What Should Obama Do About Syria?” by Dexter Filkins for The New Yorker.

Our nation is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Our children are hearing “I have a dream” repeatedly on NPR. They hear our President’s voice, they recognize it, they admire him and are proud that I worked for him as a volunteer on his first presidential campaign.

I cold-called undecided voters back in 2008. I spoke at length (for a cold-call) with a grandmother in my county, a registered Republican whose grandson was serving in Iraq. She was angry. She wanted her grandson home, and Senator McCain’s rhetoric worried her.

I told her then that I understood. That the reason I backed Obama from the start was because, solely because of, his reasoning on Iraq. His opposition to the war, since early October of 2002, was something I remembered. To me, it reflected measured judgment. Prudence. Caution. He was the kind of Democrat I liked. The kind of anybody I like, actually.

That grandmother told me that I was the most reasonable sounding person to call her that election season. She told me she would vote for Obama.

I wonder what she’s thinking now.

I know what is said in public — on a campaign trail, in a speech — means very little when it comes to having actual information in your hand, details unavailable to the rest of us. I know that the President, no matter who he (and someday she) is, will do things that surprise, disappoint…

I want desperately not to be disappointed in the coming days. I have a sad feeling that I will be.

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Could those lines apply to one nation protesting the actions of another nation?

I think they should.