How Not to Persuade Congress on Syria

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by Karl Rove,

from The Wall Street Journal,

Resolute leadership, clear goals and as much unity in Washington as possible are required when America contemplates military action. Someone should let the White House know.

Two years ago President Obama said that “the time has come” for Syrian President Bashar Assad “to step aside.” Apparently he was just thinking out loud. He offered no way to make that happen.

A year ago, Mr. Obama said any Syrian use of chemical weapons would be “a red line” leading to “enormous consequences.” Assad crossed the red line earlier this year. Nothing happened. He used chemical weapons again late last month, killing an estimated 1,400 men, women and children.

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama insisted, “I didn’t set a red line.” Instead, he claimed, “the world set a red line.” He also said: “My credibility isn’t on the line. The whole international community’s credibility is on the line.”

Yet the international community shows little inclination to act. In part, that’s because Mr. Obama has taken “leading from behind” to the extreme by letting British Prime Minister David Cameron go first in asking for parliamentary approval for a strike on Syria. When the British Parliament refused, Mr. Obama’s aides let the New York Times know that “Mr. Cameron had mishandled the situation.”

Meanwhile, some of his closest advisers are treating the legislative branch as a collection of nitwits. Mr. Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod, tweeted that “Congress is now the dog that caught the car.” An unnamed White House aide told the Washington Post, “We don’t want them [Congress] to have their cake and eat it, too.”

This is a peculiar way to obtain congressional backing for a strike in Syria. Mocking senators and congressmen won’t convince them that America’s credibility will be badly damaged—with potentially grave consequences for U.S. allies and interests—if they withhold approval.

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