Beam: Indecision about Syria costly

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Congress will get to have its say on

whether it thinks President Obama should conduct limited military air

strikes against

Syria, and that is a good thing. However, the president lost the

effectiveness of those strikes when he failed to take action

sooner. Members of his national security staff were convinced it

was the right thing to do, but he failed to heed their advice.

Indecision is a hallmark failure for

leaders at any level, and Obama will be the loser on this issue,

regardless of what Congress

decides. And it’s extremely fitting that a usually divided and

unyielding Congress is now on a hot seat, facing a decision

it cannot avoid.

Especially troubling for members of Congress are the polls showing most Americans oppose Syrian air strikes. The opposition

in four polls ranges from a high of 59 percent to a low of 41 percent. Those favoring military action range from a high of

42 percent to a low of 25 percent. The undecided numbers range from 5 to 34 percent.

Although the use of chemical weapons in

Syria is an extremely serious issue, it is somewhat comical to finally

see liberal

Democrats and conservative Republicans in the same boat on both

sides of the Syrian question. It’s a rare sight in Washington,

D.C., these days.

I have especially enjoyed seeing

far-left members of Congress like U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California

and columnists like

Eugene Robinson abandon their liberal views in order to support

questionable military action by their Democratic president.

However, there are also some of their liberal colleagues on the

other side. A number of conservative Republicans oppose any

military action, and some of them have been accused of fighting

anything Obama wants to do.

The Associated Press reported Friday

that at least six of 37 freshmen Republicans in the House have said they

would vote against

giving Obama the authority to use military force against Syria,

two have announced their support and the rest are undecided.

An AP survey found 36 senators in support of air strikes, 29

against and 35 undecided.

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and U.S.

Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, oppose air strikes. Vitter said events in

Syria don’t

pose a threat to the United States or its allies and U.S. action

could spark a broader war. Fleming talked about the uncertainty

and volatility of the situation in Syria.

They are the only two of Louisiana’s

six Republicans in Congress who have taken a strong stand against

military action. Four

GOP members said they are still weighing the pros and cons. Reps.

Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, and Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette,

told The Advocate they are leaning towards voting against military

action. Alexander is leaving Congress to become Louisiana

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s veterans affairs secretary. Boustany

represents this corner of the state.

Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, think going to Congress is a good idea, but didn’t say how

they would vote. Sen Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, the two Democrats, also think Congress should be involved in

the decision, but said they haven’t committed to support Obama’s actions.

It is easy to understand why many members of Congress are undecided. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., got to the heart of the

issue in an AP report.

“I haven’t heard a word about how the

targeted, limited strikes protect America’s national security,” Walorski

said. “How

does it fit into a long-term plan for the Middle East? What is the

endgame? Giving (Syrian President Bashar) Assad two weeks

to move all his weaponry around while we sit here and do whatever

the president’s doing? I’ve got a lot of questions; my district

has got a lot of questions.”

Supporters of military action also make convincing arguments. Two of them are Republican Reps. Luke Messer of Indiana and

Tom Cotton of Arkansas, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who is running against Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.

“America doesn’t like to watch bullies

stand by and do evil things to their people,” Messer told members of

Obama’s national

security team. “But the American people inherently understand,

intuitively understand, that there are high risks to action

here too. And if I were to make a suggestion, I think we’ve got a

lot of work to do to help the American people understand

why the risks of action are less than the risk of inaction.”

Congress can’t avoid getting involved now, but some members are skeptical. National Journal, a Washington, D.C., political

news magazine, said they believe Obama asked them for support so they would share the blame if the exercise backfires.

“Perhaps the most unenviable job in the world these days is to be a member of the Congress wrestling with what to do about

the crisis in Syria...,” National Journal said.

Maybe so, but isn’t it time they earned

their keep? Six recent national polls show the job approval rating of

Congress ranges

from a low of 11 percent to 21 percent. Its disapproval rating

ranges from a high of 83 percent to a low of 69 percent. Doing

something — anything — has to improve those numbers.

Unfortunately, Obama’s reckless decision to draw that red line and then his procrastination after it was crossed makes it

unlikely that much good would come from a military strike this late in the game.

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Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or