Published on TheHill.com on September 10, 2013
Opposition to American involvement in the war in Syria is uniting the far left and the far right in a new coalition for peace and the Constitution. It is not just an alliance of strange bedfellows — it could be the harbinger of a national partisan realignment in post-Obama America.
The coalition made its debut with its attempt to get the House to put limits on National Security Agency surveillance. The left and the right agree that the twin issues of war and intelligence surveillance form the basis for a new political movement. Their mutual disdain and disgust for Wall Street speculators enriched through currency manipulation, crony capitalism and Fed policy further their partnership.
But the most important thing both the left and the right have in common is that they are outsiders.
If the Syria resolution comes to a vote in the House — and one doubts that President Obama is nutty enough to demand it in the face of Vladimir Putin’s proposed settlement — it will feature a sight not usually seen in Washington. For one thing, the Speaker and the House majority leader will be united in voting for a major piece of legislation that the overwhelming majority of their caucus opposes. And, the president and the floor leader of his party in the House will be supporting the same measure against at least a third of their party’s representatives in the chamber.
Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) might appear to have nothing in common. But they do: They are the insiders who represent the military industrial complex on Capitol Hill. Their support of war and crony capitalist economic policy is anchored by the dependence on the goodwill and generosity of the K street lobbyists who feed the complex with daily massive helpings of public funding.
If Obama pushes the war resolution to a vote and loses, he will be cast into the most dangerous place for a second-term president to be: irrelevance. Diplomacy will take place without him, led by Russia’s Putin. He won’t be able to pass legislation and will face a growing revolt in his own party against the expanding intelligence IRS/CIA/NSA scandals. And his party’s members in Congress will know they can vote against him with impunity.
But it may not come to a vote. Putin has pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire.
Putin’s proposal to place Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons under United Nations supervision must have been vetted by Damascus. Assad wins every way. He gets a pass on his past use of chemical weapons — he just has to not use them again. But he knows full well that he can’t use them anymore anyway; the world would go nuts and topple him from power if he were to attack his people with gas again after all this. So he is not really relinquishing anything. He doesn’t get bombed. He can play games with the U.N. inspectors for months. He acquires an international legitimacy through his acceptance of peace terms, proving he is no Saddam Hussein. And his opposition, which is riddled with al Qaeda, looks so bad the American people probably won’t allow even their covert arming to proceed.
Putin gets to be at the epicenter of diplomacy after Obama is consigned to the sidelines. Already he has gained the upper hand over the U.S. in Egypt and Saudi Arabia — formerly our two strongest Middle Eastern Arab allies — by supporting the military in Cairo while Obama bet on the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria makes it a trifecta.
Obama has to say yes. He can’t bomb a country that is in the process of suing for peace. He has to know he will lose the war resolution, and be grateful that he can save face and not be put to the test. But everyone will know that he would have lost, and that will change things mightily.
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