President Barack Obama has again made the cardinal mistake of trying to appease the Republican howler chorus. You'd think that by now he would be on to their smarmy game of consistent obstruction, loud and vapid posturing, and creeping hypocrisy. It's as if the president can't tune out the whining noises and infantile tantrums that pass for informed debate between the Congress and the White House. And the rabid, neoconservative jouster guards keep trying to knock him off his political horse just to make him look inefficient and indecisive.
So after hounding him for months about an unsavory and viscous group of medieval bad guys with guns and tanks in Iraq and their blood lust and penchant for public displays of murder, the president finally did a recent prime time speech to the nation about how he was going to fight ISIS.
The first casualty of the speech was the president's own long-held position to end America's war making and to usher in an era of peace after 40 years of conducting America's foreign policy over the barrel of an M-16 rifle. His military draw downs in Afghanistan and Iraq were the cornerstones of this policy that was in sync with war-weary Americans. That was before ISIS publicly beheaded two innocent Americans and triggered the shouts for revenge.
Using flimsy legal arguments President Obama, without Congressional approval, imperially expanded the war in Iraq and Syria and warned Americans that this new action could last years, certainly long after his presidency ends in 2016. The president, reminiscent of George Bush II, told Americans that he has the authority to take any military action that he needs to protect the homeland. But he tellingly pointed out that ISIS was not presently a threat to the American Homeland but he expected that to happen at a future date.
So, the new Obama Doctrine now appears to be "bomb and shoot first and worry about Congressional authority later." Moreover, as a sub-strategy he's now prepared to wage "preventative war" to stop ISIS killing Americans at a time that he now does not know will happen or not. As of now, Congress is only important because it holds and controls the nation's purse strings that President Obama wants to pry open and extract $500 million to urinate away on the Syrian rebels to fight an old foe, Syrian President Basher Assad.
Republicans are playing smug because they know that this is a very, very slippery slope and the slow, creeping slither to all-out war and "boots on the ground" is just one incident away waiting to happen to stoke American shouts of revenge and fuel the expected blood lust in Congress. These days the anti-Obama charge is led by none other than Senator John McCain who is given ample airtime to castigate the president in the most unseemly and insulting manner.
It never ceases to amaze me how it is that that a man who graduated at the bottom 1 percent of his military class, crashed four planes during his time in the U.S. Navy, and despite his personal wealth still reportedly collects $58,000 each year in government disability checks is treated with such reverence by the Republican Right. This is the war hero who has made it his mission in life to oppose anything that President Obama does. This is the man who never saw a war he did not like and who sees American foreign policy as the same thing as simply arming anyone that he and his Republican "chicken hawks" deem America's enemies.
President Obama, consistently accused of being a crummy leader by McCain, Cheney et al, appears to have succumbed to this constant harangue and decided that he's going to act tough in a nasty sectarian conflict in Iraq because of the bloodthirsty rants of the hard-right in the U.S. Congress. By moving to the right on this issue President Obama has clearly exposed and confirmed the 21st century political paradigm in America of the "Imperial Presidency." He's embraced a new fact of American presidential power when it comes to waging -- not declaring -- war: go it alone and worry about Congress later.
But in the present circumstances Congress seems okay with this, at least in the short term. President Obama must know that this is all politics and if something goes awry it will take just five minutes for the long knives to come out and stab him in the back while all the time laughing with barely concealed glee.
This embrace of a Bush II era policy and his "bring it on" machismo is at odds with the president's stated aversion to the doctrine of perpetual war. But, as they say, politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose and President Obama has found that he's had to do things that enrage his own supporters on the Left. Egged on by Republican craven political antics he exasperatingly threw up his hands, brush-offed Congress and bombed the hell out of Libya in 2011. Now he seems set to do the same thing in Syria.
But remember: the same Calibanesque Republicans who grew turgid at the prospect of killing people in Libya soon turned against him when the Benghazi debacle took place. They quickly blamed him for creating the conditions that spawned a vicious militia that killed the American Ambassador. It's the same group that's now suing him and will try to impeach him if and when the feces hit the fan in Iraq.
There are political semantics at play here and married with the legal geniuses in the Obama Administration there will be a new set of parsing and words-smithing to justify the president's action. Paramount on the list will be Obama's statement that this is not a war but a wide "counter terror" operation. Questions as to what exactly the military "support staff" is now doing on the ground in Iraq are also going to surface.
The precedent here is that President Obama never sought Congressional approval for his war in Libya and has again rejected restrictions of his war-making powers with his renewed military adventures in Iraq and Syria. The angry Left in this debate are seething that "their man" has made Congress a bystander as he readies Iraq War III. And the sad truth is that even Americans who are loathe to be dragged into this new conflict have no way of reining the militarism of the Imperial Presidency.
The fact is that many of President Obama supporters believe that he is against the notion of perpetual war but the truth is a very different matter. His foreign policy is punctuated by a huge uptick in drone warfare in undeclared war zones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. United States warplanes are now dropping bombs on Isis in Iraq and very soon we'll see that expanded to Syria.
The more things change is the more they remain the same.