Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the nation earlier today. In the speech he presented a summary of evidence regarding the attack in Ghouta, and made a fierce case for a U.S. military strike in response to that attack and described some boundaries on what the commander-in-chief wishes to do.
What was missing from his speech was a case for why the United States Congress cannot debate and vote on the matter. Although Mr. Kerry cited the prestige and reputation of the United States, in the end he is unable to say that the United States is under direct attack; and in order to launch a military strike on a country that has not directly attacked us, the president must seek an authorization from Congress for this act of war. Because that is what it is: an act of war. And while it has not been the recent practice of presidents to acknowledge this limitation of power or seek congressional approval for war, in this case there is plenty of time to make that case and then respond. After all, the president claims that he is not seeking to change the balance of military power in the civil war, but merely to fire a 'shot across the bow.' If that is true, why not take the time for a proper debate in accordance with our constitution?
Also missing from Mr. Kerry's speech was a compelling case for why the United States needs to go it alone as "chemical warfare cop." Assuming the case is true, and agreement that this attack on civilians was completely unacceptable for any purpose, what is the correct way to respond? While I understand the difficulties in securing Security Council support, do we not have a duty to try? And what about the Arab League? If this is a great moral issue, why not make that case to these bodies and assemble a legitimate coalition?
Opinion polls suggest that Americans want answers to these questions before supporting an act of war that runs the risks of further involvement in a foreign civil war. Will the president ever deal with us forthrightly?
Or shall we start calling him Barack O'Dubya?