Obama Has Decided to Attack Syria, Will Congress Act?

Recent History Suggests Congress Will Be An Afterthought

The Obama Administration has already publicly endorsed the narrative of Syrian government chemical weapons strikes in their own capital city, and has already decided to attack Syria within the next two weeks. Where is Congress in all of this?

Still in recess, and war enthusiast Rep. Eliot Engel (D – NY) is urging President Obama to get the war started before that recess ends, saying Congress doesn’t have to be involved until the war is already in progress.

That’s in keeping with the administration’s most recent war, when they waited until the last possible moment to inform Congress about the ongoing war in Libya and then openly refused to seek Congressional approval, despite the law explicitly requiring them to do so, on the grounds that it wasn’t “technically” a war. Congress would be extremely easy to sideline if the war is already going on, and that’s a key point of the latest rush.

Still, sometimes it’s nice to be asked, and some in Congress are expressing hope that they’ll actually get “consulted” with. The early indications are that leadership in both parties, hawkish as a matter of course, are on board with another war, and just needed to be told when and where. Or told after the fact, they’re flexible.

Still, that’s only part of the story, and while the administration’s ‘consultation’ will naturally begin and end with the pro-war leadership, an awful lot of Congressmen are expressing major concerns about the US jumping into this next quagmire.

Recent history is not supportive of the idea that Congress would actually stop a war, and particularly if it gets started before they have a chance to pass any resolutions, there is a strong tendency to shrug it off. Still, if it ever does get a hearing in Congress expect a contentious debate, centering around the paucity of evidence for the allegations against the Assad government and the risks of supporting an al-Qaeda dominated rebellion.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.