John B. Judis makes a questionable assertion about the looming Congressional vote on military action against Syria:
If Obama does win authorization in the House and goes ahead, he will have scored an immense political victory—one that would bode well for the budget and debt battles to come. To succeed, he will have to split the Republican party that, to date, has presented a fairly united front in the face of his proposals.
From the perspective of nose-counting, the last bit is obviously true. But of the first—parlaying a win on Syria into leverage over the debt ceiling and funding the government—I think rather the opposite is the case. If, as I suspect, a majority of Republicans vote aye on a strike against the Assad regime, they might feel emboldened to confront Obama on the domestic front. If politics stops at the water’s edge of foreign policy, as the cliché goes, Republicans will have earned a measure of good will from the media, and even, to a lesser extent, from the Obama administration itself. With Syria behind them, Republicans could thus reenter the budget and debt ceiling debates with renewed resolve: Okay, Barack; we’re on this side of the water’s edge again.
More than that, though, is the dubious idea of an “immense political victory” flowing from anything to do with Syria. The American public is nearly evenly divided on the question of intervening there. If and when the strike begins, support will temporarily rise in the fashion of the rally-’round-the-flag effect. After that … what? Will Assad be driven from power, as Libya’s Gaddafi was? No: by most insider accounts, that’s not even the aim of the “limited” actions under consideration.
So after a day or two of bombing, then what?
Obama’s “immense political victory” will recede from public view. At best, the question of Obama’s coherence on the question of what, if anything, to do about Syria will have been quieted: a “red line” was crossed, and, wham-bam, a regime was proportionally punished.
But an “immense political victory—one that and Denis McDonough and Jack Lew can carry into their back pocket during the next round of negotiations with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?