Obama’s Syria dilemma: Becoming the president he didn’t like

9/1/13
 
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by Julian Zelizer,

from CNN,
9/1/13:

President Obama looked uncomfortable as he stood before the nation on Saturday, announcing that he would ask for a congressional resolution of support to use limited force in Syria.

Obama, who won the hearts and souls of many Americans in the 2008 election with his trenchant criticism of President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, now finds himself leading a controversial and ambiguous military operation that has little support, in Congress or abroad.

Asking Congress for a resolution of support is an important step in making this decision, but what will matter much more is how the operation unfolds.

President Obama now finds himself at a potential crossroads. The initial rollout of this plan has been highly problematic. The administration has failed to build international support for this action and has offered a shifting set of reasons for using force, a strategy that has reminded many Americans of the buildup to Iraq. Obama, who has been such a strong supporter of congressional involvement, seemed to back into announcing that he would approach the House and Senate only when he had no other choice.

Even though an operation in Syria is unlikely to grow to the scale and scope of the bigger conflicts that the United States has been through, it is crucial that Obama handle this situation in the right way, learning from the mistakes of his predecessors. He needs to provide the strongest possible evidence that Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons and make it clear to the public that he does have a plan about the mission in this war.

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