Obama’s attack on Syria is delayed for some days but is all but certain to happen. In the wake of the Obama-Cameron failure to properly stage manage the ‘democratic’ outcome of the British parliament vote, Obama felt it wise to enlist explicit Congressional support. This is good news, if only because it marks a rare check on the runaway train of ever increasing executive power. However, the maneuver is purely strategic, not principled, as the Administration is still maintaining that Obama “has the right” (Kerry’s words) to strike Syria regardless of how the Congressional vote goes. The Constitution is still safely dead and buried.
Obama’s rationale for the strikes on Syria is openly stated: to preserve Washington’s credibility. The NY Times reported this past Friday that, “Facing faltering support in foreign capitals and Congress for a strike against Syria, the Obama administration on Friday made an aggressive and coordinated push to justify a military intervention on the grounds that American credibility was at stake.” And here’s Reuters quoting “a former senior administration official”: “The 800-pound gorilla in the room is the question of maintaining American credibility.”
As Chomsky has often pointed out, you can ask any mafia don what that means (Max Fisher’s protestations notwithstanding). The U.S. is not the global policeman, as is often said (see for instance, the title of a column in the Financial Times today, “The world would miss the American policeman“), it is the global mobster. And as any gangster knows, to preserve one’s position at the top of the food chain, it is necessary to continually reestablish that threats of violence will be backed up.
To update the parlance, the White House must preserve its ‘street cred’.
The Associated Press actually framed an entire article around the importance of ‘credibility’. Julie Pace writes (headline: “Analysis: Obama’s credibility on line in reversal”),
“President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to instead ask Congress for permission left him with a high-risk gamble that could devastate his credibility if no action is ultimately taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack that crossed his own ‘‘red line.’’
The stunning reversal also raises questions about the president’s decisiveness and could embolden leaders in Syria, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, leaving them with the impression of a U.S. president unwilling to back up his words with actions.”
The reader can simply switch out the names and it is a perfect description of the dynamic operative in any local street gang.
A negative Congressional vote, Pace warns, “could also weaken his standing internationally at a time when there are already growing questions about the scope of American influence, particularly in the Arab world.”