Overwhelmingly, Americans reject Barack Obama’s call to launch a military strike against Syria. Many of his opponents think that the President is in a tough spot, regardless of what happens: If he doesn’t attack Syria, then, since the latter has crossed his now infamous “red line,” Obama—and, quite possibly, America itself—promises to appear “weak” to our enemies and the world. If, on the other hand, he does attack Syria against the objections of Congress, American voters, and the rest of the world, then Obama will appear stupendously arrogant.
He’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
Not so fast.
Obama is a radical leftist, a “community organizer”—a community rabble rouser—who knows exactly how to create and exploit crises for his own political aggrandizement. We should consider the possibility that the consensus among the punditry class is on the verge of being subverted: Obama might be setting himself up to benefit from the spot he’s in—regardless of what happens.
First, in the almost certain event that Congress refuses to authorize the use of force against Syria, Obama will be provided with an opportunity to avoid going to war. And what an opportunity this will be.
If more atrocities occur in Syria, as they most assuredly will, he will be able to blame the bloodshed on his rivals in Congress. With the help of his media accomplices, Obama can attempt to convince voters of the callous opportunism of his Republican foes, a rank partisanship—maybe even “racist” partisanship?—that would sacrifice numerous Syrians if this was the price that had to be paid to obstruct Obama’s agenda.
At the same time, the President can elevate his own image by showing the world that, while he personally wanted to strike Syria, he nevertheless deferred to the will of Congress and to that of the American people. In glaring contrast to his opponents, as well as to the charge(s) that they’ve been leveling against him for the last five years, Obama can use this as his chance to prove that not only isn’t he the radical that they say he is; he isn’t even much of a “partisan” at all.
Second, by deferring to Congress’s will, Obama can, at least implicitly, draw out the contrasts between himself and his predecessor. The country remains war-weary because of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in which George W. Bush and his Republicans got us mired. Obama, on the other hand, ended America’s engagements in both Middle Eastern lands and kept it out of any others.
This, at any rate, is how history might remember him.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.