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Obama Pauses; Calls for Debate in Congress

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Source: Wallwritings

In a surprise move Saturday afternoon, President Barack Obama announced  he would ask for a Congressional debate before he would order any air strikes on Syria.

Speaking at a hastily-called press conference in the White House rose garden, the President said:  "I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."

Ma'an, the Palestinian news service, notes that the decision to take the issue to Congress "represents a significant gamble for Obama."

He "risks suffering the same fate as British Prime Minister David Cameron, who on Friday lost his own vote on authorizing military action."

The television network, MSNBC, reported that White House officials point to Cameron's defeat in the Parliament as one reason the President decided to delay action against Syria until Congress could return and hold its debate.

The U.S. House of Representatives confirms it will consider a measure on military action against Syria the week of Sept. 9, according to House Speaker John Boehner.

In his Friday  New York Times column, "A Much Less Special Relationship," Roger Cohen wrote:

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"It has been a very long time since a British prime minister lost a war-and-peace vote in Parliament, as David Cameron did on Syria in a stinging personal defeat. He paid the price for the "dodgy dossier," "Bush's poodle" and all the other damning epithets that came to accompany Tony Blair's support a decade ago of the war America fought in Iraq on false pretenses."

In addition to David Cameron's defeat in Parliament, President Obama could not avoid the fact that he was already on record regarding a president's need to obtain congressional approval for an attack on another nation.

Speaking in a Q and A session with the Boston Globe  on December 20, 2007, then presidential candidate Obama was asked about talk of potential strikes against Iran:

"In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?"

Candidate Obama responded:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

"As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent.

"History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

When President George W. Bush built his "coalition of the willing" nations before his 2003 attack on Iraq, he secured the backing of the Arab League, a support that President Obama failed to gain in recent months.

Juan Cole writes that it is most likely the new military government of Egypt that cost Obama the support of the Arab League this time around. Egypt, according to Cole, has also refused to support an American assault on Syria. Cole writes:

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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