Go To Congress, Mr. President

by Patrick Appel

A new NBC poll finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans think Obama should be required to get approval from Congress before attacking Syria. A chart on the key question:

Congressional Approval

J.D. Tuccille wants Obama to go to Congress:

If President Obama is feeling lonely after the British vote, asking Congress to debate military action would give him excellent cover for either gathering support or backing away from unilateral warmaking — and it would also abide by the Constitution. That’s an approach Barack Obama himself would have approved, not so many years ago.

Larison continues to doubt that Obama will bother to get congressional approval:

If Obama doesn’t think he is legally required to go to Congress, wouldn’t it still make sense politically to involve Congress and get their backing for his attack? It might seem so, but the case for the attack is so weak that it wouldn’t withstand much public scrutiny, much less debate in both houses.

Because the proposed military action is supposed to be brief and limited, Obama probably sees going to Congress as a useless headache and unnecessary complication. Of course, it shouldn’t matter whether he feels like doing it. Unlike Cameron, he is obliged to do this when he plans to initiate hostilities against another state. It is up to members of Congress and the public to make him fulfill that obligation. Unless that happens, Obama will go ahead with the attack as if Congress is irrelevant because it will have proven itself to be exactly that.

The lesson Amy Davidson hopes Obama will take from Cameron:

Obama may take the British vote as proof that he can’t risk putting himself in Cameron’s position. But facing Congress after things don’t go according to plan—if there even is a plan—would be all the more humiliating. Obama can’t win this the way that Cameron lost it: by talking as though he is the only one acting according to principle, and that those who disagree just haven’t seen enough pictures of the effects of chemical weapons. There are principles at work in wondering whether something that feels satisfying but causes more death and disorder is right, too. The real Cameron trap is thinking that a leader can go to war personally and apolitically, without having a good answer when asked what’s supposed to happen after the missiles are fired. Does the President get that?