In 2007 Obama criticized Bush for making plans to possibly bomb Iran without getting Congressional approval, pointing out that absent an imminent threat to the US, this was unconstitutional. Then, in 2011, Obama himself bombed Libya without getting Congressional approval.
A week ago, Obama said that he would bomb Syria. But then it turned out that he could not get UN Security Council approval, and even our staunchest ally, the United Kingdom, voted against the incursion. So Obama decided that he wanted Congressional approval, since he didn't want to take the political risk of acting unilaterally.
Of course, after seeking such approval, Obama then announced that he did not need it and even if he didn't get it might go ahead and bomb Syria anyway.
Last year, Obama said, "A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” This week, he said, "I didn't set a red line, the world set a red line." (The world has disavowed chemical weapons; but it never set a "red line" and no other world leaders are suggesting bombing Syria.)
The question is, how will Obama be perceived abroad after he gives the order for the Navy to loft a few Tomahawks in Syria's direction? You know, a response strong enough to send a message, but not strong enough to actually change anything (like a regime). Strong enough so as not to be mocked, but not so strong as to anger Russia or Iran. Strong enough to make it look to the American people as if he is good on his word, but not so strong as to do too much damage.
Will Obama be perceived as a strong leader?
Here are some of the reactions I expect:
Vladimir Putin: "Wow, I thought Barack was just a big pussy. Boy, was I ever wrong. When he ordered those Tomahawks in, it sure opened my eyes. He is one tough hombre. You know me, I'm into machismo, but I'm nothing compared to Barack. I wish instead of growing up in Leningrad competing at judo and having a career in the KGB, I'd played JV basketball at Punahou, then gone to Harvard Law School and become a community organizer. Then I'd be a real man, like Barack. I mean, he may be a homosexual, but he's no pansy."
David Cameron: "I'm so ashamed that Parliament voted against supporting Barack's military adventurism. He was right, and we were wrong. They'll be making movies about this in the future. Hey, maybe if Barack is out of office by then, he can star in them as himself. Then maybe he can put those movies on an iPod and give them to Queen Elizabeth as a gift. She so appreciated his previous gift of the iPod with his speeches on it."
UN head Ban Ki-moon: "Barack was smart not to wait for our verdict. There was absolutely no chance that the rebels might have used chemical weapons in order to draw the US into the conflict and shift the tide of the war. I mean, whoever heard of such duplicity, right? And Barack was obviously right that those weapons represented an immediate threat to the United States. Today, the outskirts of Damascus; tomorrow, Bethesda."
Bashar Assad: "Now that Barack has put that airfield out of commission, I see the error of my ways. I'm now going to put down my arms and let the rebels take over. A lot of them are al Qaeda, but Barack is right, we shouldn't fight them."
Ayman al-Zawahiri: "Al Qaeda has been completely won over by Barack's statesmanlike move. We no longer see the US as the Great Satan; we now see them as our savior. In fact, a lot of us are already converting to Christianity. Personally, I can't decide whether to become a Baptist or an Episcopalian. In fact, we admire Barack so much, we've decided to stop promoting jihad and start promoting gay rights."