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Congress is thinking about it

The Forward has a round-up of Congressional views on President Obama's war resolution. Some smart people seem to be doing some serious thinking: Joe Mancini, Barbara Mikulski, Alan Grayson (who was on the Newshour, Thursday; sharp and critical)--all Democrats.

And this illumination from the White House: "The other [choice] would be to do nothing, which White House officials privately acknowledge would damage the credibility of any future Obama ultimatum to other countries." Maybe the president should stop issuing ultimatums.

A graphic showing current (Friday morning) views of House and Senate members. WashPost

The Pentagon is not gung ho--Washington Post

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Not surprised at all about Alan Grayson's reaction - he is the closest we have these days to a thinking man's contrarian in the US Congress.  Joe Manchin seems to always be looking over his shoulder to the folks back home in West Virginia - where for mainly racist reasons it is never safe to be viewed as being a too strong supporter of the Kenyan socialist who is free-loading in the White House.  

The real problem for Obama's Syria policy is with Barbara Milkulski:  She's got real power as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee because she holds in her hands all the money strings that keep all the other Senators and Congressmen dancing to the Administration's tune.  

If Obama is having a hard time getting Milkulski's vote, there most likely won't be any strike on Syria anytime soon.

Grayson is great.  


Yesterday at my local HD theater, where I usually watch the Met Opera, I went instead to see Helen Mirren as H.M. the Queen, in Peter Morgan's The Audience, about her dealings with various PMs since Churchill. One meeting was absolutely chilling, given the day's news: that was Anthony Eden during the Suez crisis of 1956, trying to justify armed action by Britain, France, and Israel, against Nasser's Egypt, and to cover up their secret dealings with one another. It could have been written by Morgan only a few days ago; only a few names needed to be changed.

Is this the crisis to which Eisenhower said, "No"?

Yes, it is. And in Morgan's play, Eden cites Eisenhower's letter of refusal to join in. Looking back on it, one could probably make a case that our modern middle eastern troubles seem to follow a pattern started way back in the 1950s: a) the overthrow of the Iranian government under Mossadegh by Britain and America, because he was endangering the well-being of western oil companies; and b) the Suez crisis (kicked off by Nasser's seizure of the Suez canal, after which the Israelis attacked Egypt, and the British and French came in to restore order, though as it later turned out (I think) that the Israeli attack was worked out with Paris and London beforehand, just to give Britain and France an excuse to intervene). Eden, of course, had been one of the heroes of the late 1930s when he resigned as Foreign Secretary because he saw Hitler and Mussolini as dangers, and refused to countenance anything that smacked of appeasement. Unfortunately he went to his grave with most people remembering Suez rather than his stand against the dictators.

What would happen today if, in response to our strikes on Syria, Iran were to lob a missile or two at our ships, or if government sponsored riots were to break out against American embassies in places like Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, etc? Would the limited use of force as promised in the Senate reslolution give way to permission for a wider use? And how will we remember Obama in the future? As the leader who broke Jim Crow in the White House, or the leader who dragged an unwilling country into yet another middle eastern imbroglio with no solution?

Nicholas, You say our "modern" Middle Eastern troubles. Don't these rest on the British-French competition for influence in the Middle East after WWI and the Mandates granted to each to follow on the Ottoman Empire's demise. Somewhere on my Kindle is a book, "Line in the Sand," that examines the French-British competition for the former Ottoman Emprie, promises made, promises broken, etc. I can't help but project this history, which I've never finished reading, onto the French support for a U.S. attack on Syria, at which they worked madly and insanely to beat the Brits. What is their investment here? Mythical? Historical? Political?

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