President Obama's foreign policy was dealt a blow yesterday when the British parliament voted against military action in Syria.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, like Obama, had been threatening military reprisals against Syria's President Assad for his use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians. However, there was fierce opposition to military action in parliament.
"I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons," Cameron said. He has now ruled out any military action against Syria without parliamentary approval.
As a result, President Obama is acing the prospect of going it alone. There's little doubt that the president considers action necessary in order to save face. He all but threatened military strikes if Syria used chemical weapons. Its become necessary for Obama to act or he faces a serious loss of credibility with foreign nations.
However, there's another way out for the president.
Some members of Congress say President Obama should seek their approval before taking any military action against Syria. Some say an attack would be unconstitutional since there's no direct threat to national security. Others simply oppose the prospect of rushing into yet another conflict in the Middle East. But a growing number of members think the president should not act without their approval.
Since its likely that any vote to authorize military action against Syria would fail, President Obama would be well advised to follow their advice. It would let Obama off the hook in the eyes of the world community and allow him to avoid any appearance of weakness.
The president has clear authority to take military action without any input from Congress. However, those war powers were granted for emergencies, not to deal with rogue leaders and situations that have been brewing for many long months.
President Obama should follow the lead of Prime Minister Cameron. Let Congress and the American people debate and decide whether military action should be taken in Syria. If he doesn't, Obama will truly be going it alone.