Telegraph Piles on: Barack Obama is heading for a humiliating defeat over Syria: this will be a massive blow to his presidencyPosted: September 6, 2013
President Obama’s Syrian campaign is in jeopardy
Politico has an eye-opening piece today revealing the extent to which the White House is staring defeat in the face over Syria. According to the influential Washington-based publication, President Obama doesn’t have the votes in the House of Representatives to secure a win, with large-scale opposition among Republicans, and lukewarm backing among Democrats:
If the House voted today on a resolution to attack Syria, President Barack Obama would lose — and lose big. That’s the private assessment of House Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides who are closely involved in the process. If the Senate passes a use-of-force resolution next week — which is no sure thing — the current dynamics suggest that the House would defeat it.
That would represent a dramatic failure for Obama, and once again prove that his sway over Congress is extraordinarily limited. The loss would have serious reverberations throughout the next three months, when Obama faces off against Congress in a series of high-stakes fiscal battles.
If Obama doesn’t get Congressional backing for military action, he could still go ahead with strikes against Syria, but it would be a huge political gamble. It would probably be a bridge too far for a president with sinking approval ratings, and his party facing crucial midterm elections in 2014. A defeat in Congress would be a massive blow to the Obama presidency, as well as to the president’s personal credibility, and could well amount to the biggest humiliation of his career so far.
Here are several key reasons why Obama is in trouble over Syria:
1. The president hasn’t made a convincing case why a Syria intervention is in the US national interest. He has also sent a confusing message over his ‘red line’ over Syria’s use of chemical weapons, declaring in Sweden that this wasn’t his red line, but that of the international community.
2. Public opinion is hugely sceptical over a Syrian intervention, with Members of Congress inundated with calls from constituents wary of war. There is very little public appetite for another war in the Middle East, not least one where the goals and objectives are unclear.
3. President Obama’s international coalition for military action is looking pretty pathetic, with only France signing up. The British have wisely decided to stay out, and no other NATO allies have stepped forward to offer military assistance. Obama looks increasingly isolated on the world stage, and that matters to US lawmakers. America remains the world’s only superpower, but it always prefers to go to war with allies at its side. As Margaret Thatcher once put it, “the United States needs friends in the lonely task of world leadership.”
4. The Obama administration’s case hasn’t been helped by extremely bad publicity for Syria’s rebel movement, some factions of which are aligned with al-Qaeda.A searing piece in The New York Times this week revealed (with video footage) the brutal execution of captured Syrian government forces by Islamist militants. There has also been significant coverage in the American media of rebel attacks on Christian villages, imagery that hardly plays well in Middle America.
5. Secretary of State John Kerry has been a liability, not an asset, for President Obama. Kerry has been entrusted with leading the Administration’s charge for war, making the case before the House and Senate, as well as the American public. Kerry, however, has been a notorious appeaser of the Assad regime, and worked tirelessly to undercut efforts by the Bush Administration to isolate Assad’s Baathist dictatorship. Photographs of Kerry intimately dining with the Assads in Damascus have hardly helped his case.
6. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has remained largely silent on the Syria issue. One of her aides claims she is backing Obama’s push for war, but she hasn’t taken to the airwaves to support the president. Whatever her reasons for staying Mum, Clinton’s absence has probably lost the president some Congressional backing among Democratic waverers.
7. Obama’s campaign on Syria hasn’t been helped by declining support among Americans for his overall foreign policy. The “Obama doctrine” has been a striking failure on the world stage, from the disastrous Russian “reset”, to the lack of US leadership in the Middle East. The president’s handling of international affairs is increasingly viewed negatively by Americans, with just 41 percent of voters backing his foreign policy according to a recent poll.
8. Barack Obama simply doesn’t come across as a war leader, one who instills confidence both at home and abroad. He has a well-earned reputation for apologising for his country on foreign soil, and extending the hand of friendship to America’s enemies, from Tehran to Khartoum. His traditionally Jimmy Carter-esque approach simply doesn’t square with his new found desire to start bombing a foreign land. In the eyes of the American people, he’s not exactly General Patton.
Nile Gardiner is a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst and political commentator. A former aide to Margaret Thatcher, Gardiner has served as a foreign policy adviser to two US presidential campaigns. He appears frequently on American and British television, including Fox News Channel, BBC, and Fox Business Network.Barack Obama is heading for a humiliating defeat over Syria: this will be a massive blow to his presidency Source: Telegraph Blogs–Nile Gardiner
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