- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Republicans are damned if they agree with President Obama’s proposal for a military strike on Syria — and damned if they don’t. The party’s lawmakers have been cast in the role of moral arbitrators, whether they like it or not. When asked his opinion on Syria, even the oft straight-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters, “I’m going to leave that to the people who represent us in Congress to make that decision.”

Multiple polls continue to show that unconvinced, war-weary Americans rigorously oppose U.S. intervention; the latest comes from Pew Research Center, revealing that only 29 percent favor a military strike, while three-fourths fear it would create a backlash against the U.S. and its allies. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, meanwhile, appears to revel in his starring role as the Obama’s administration’s designated dramatist, his speeches punctuated with aggressive language and emotional flourishes.

GOP lawmakers are left with the heavy lifting. They must pick their way through the decision-making, and the political minefield that accompanies it. But Mr. Obama’s critics also say his “faltering” comes with a price. “No one should labor under the illusion that a divided Congress can either stiffen his spine or step into the leadership vacuum he has left,” points out Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor for Commentary magazine.

And oh, the irony: Their traditional commitment to a strong national defense and strategic deterrence now makes Republicans the allies of their Democratic president, at least in theory. And oh, yes: the American public has forgotten those assorted “scandals” that plagued the White House during the summer, along with worried talk of the national debt and the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are picking their paths very carefully, indeed.

“A failure to act when acting is in America’s interests and when a red line has been so clearly crossed will only weaken our ability to use diplomacy, economic pressure, and other nonlethal tools to remove Bashar Assad and deter Iran and other aggressors. There are no easy solutions and a one-off military strike is not by itself an adequate strategy, but I am convinced that the risks of inaction outweigh the risks of a limited intervention,” says House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

“And a well-designed and well-executed strike that both deters the use of chemical weapons and diminishes the capacity of the Assad regime can contribute to the achievement of a clear and attainable goal: the ultimate displacement of the Assad regime by moderate elements within the opposition,” the Virginia Republican observes.

BROADCASTERS IGNORE TERRORISTS

“The United States is poised to fire missiles at Syria in response to chemical attacks on Syrian civilians. But the assault will also pit the U.S. against one side of the civil war and aid the other side, which includes al Qaeda,” says Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group.

“Broadcast news outlets are clearly aware of the Islamic terror group’s role in Syria, but rarely report it. Nearly 94 percent of all Syria stories since the gas attacks have made no mention of al Qaeda whatsoever,” Mr. Gainor continues.

“It’s not like the networks haven’t had time. Since the gas attack on Aug. 21 in Ghoutta, Syria, ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows have done at least 171 stories on the conflict,” he says. “Just 11 of those stories have made any mention of the terrorists of al Qaeda, and all of those have been passing references. There hasn’t been one story focused exclusively on al Qaeda in Syria during that time.”

The connection is clear and journalists know it, Mr. Gainor says, citing ABC’s chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross, who noted the unusual alliance. “The role of the al Qaeda group fighting against Assad is one of the great ironies of the United States military strike in Syria,” Mr. Ross explained.

UNCONVINCED

“The president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria. He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America’s security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people.”

— Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, in a statement Tuesday.

FOR THE LEXICON

Story Continues →