— Rick Klein (@rickklein) September 5, 2013
President Obama will not order strikes on Syria if Congress rejects the use of force, according to an adviser—and he will address the country on Tuesday evening to make the case. Politico notes that while if the vote happened today the administration would “lose big,” many Democrats in Congress will likely move to “yes” next week:
High-level congressional sources believe there is some time — but not much — for Obama, Boehner and Pelosi to turn things around. But any vote to authorize an attack on Syria will be extraordinarily close, according to people in both parties with direct knowledge of the political dynamics in the House Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus.
The Fix and ThinkProgress have the latest whip counts. And Mother Jones has a great running guide to the debate here. Meanwhile, Wired is tracking votes vis-à-vis political contributions from the defense industry.
Members on both sides of the aisle are telling me the same thing: their constituents are overwhelmingly against a Syrian strike.
— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) September 5, 2013
As constituents (and even some unlikely neoconservatives), continue to express opposition and AIPAC goes “all out,” next week’s debate will be revealing. Congress is now more popular than intervention in the Syrian civil war—House Republicans might boost those numbers if they skip the incoherent rants about Benghazi and opportunism-flaunting to ask earnest questions about America’s long-term interests and role in brutal protracted civil wars in the Middle East.
Peggy Noonan, who seems to be somewhat confused about what is actually happening in Syria (“A strong, broad strike opens the possibility of civil war”), reflects on a watershed moment for democratic accountability in foreign-policy making:
There is something going on here, a new distance between Washington and America that the Syria debate has forced into focus. The Syria debate isn’t, really, a struggle between libertarians and neoconservatives, or left and right, or Democrats and Republicans. That’s not its shape. It looks more like a fight between the country and Washington, between the broad American public and Washington’s central governing assumptions.
I’ve been thinking of the “wise men,” the foreign policy mandarins of the 1950s and ’60s, who so often and frustratingly counseled moderation, while a more passionate public, on right and left, was looking for action. “Ban the Bomb!” “Get Castro Out of Cuba.” In the Syria argument, the moderating influence is the public, which doesn’t seem to have even basic confidence in Washington’s higher wisdom.
— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) September 6, 2013
In related updates, Robert Costa checks in on Rand Paul:
He’s huddling daily with conservatives in both the House and Senate and guiding them on how to battle the leadership. He also hasn’t ruled out a filibuster, though he has publicly played down the idea. One Paul confidant tells me the senator is already looking into buying comfier sneakers.
Next week, Paul will meet with the Republican Study Committee, a conservative House caucus, and he’ll host a bicameral breakfast for conservative skeptics of Obama’s Syria proposal. Releasing legislation to counter the leadership’s resolution is another tactic. On Wednesday, he proposed an amendment in the Foreign Relations Committee, specifying how “the president does not have the power” to unilaterally authorize a military attack that “does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” The amendment was tabled on a 14–5 vote, but Paul insiders say it was the first of many such efforts to come.
Abraham M. Denmark zooms out to ask what another ill-advised embroilment in the Middle East might mean for the Obama administration’s Asia pivot (i.e. “the view from China”):
U.S. intervention in Syria will likely reinforce preconceptions and fears of American strategic distraction. Indeed, while the Chinese government officially opposes U.S. intervention in Syria, my private conversations with Chinese scholars have reflected a range of reactions—from astonishment that the United States would willingly involve itself in Middle Eastern turmoil, to genuine confusion about what interests the United States sees for itself in Syria, to barely-contained enthusiasm for the prospect of the United States becoming embroiled in a Middle Eastern quagmire.