Boehner: Obama's request for authorization to arm the Syrian "moderates" is a sound one

I’m dying to know what this guy knows to make him think our quixotic project to essentially build an army in Syria from scratch is worth publicly endorsing. I can’t recall reading a single analysis lately that’s bullish about it; the best-case scenario seems to be that the “moderates” will end up being ineffective but not egregiously counterproductive. As it is, this authorization request seems like a naked attempt by O to get Republicans to sign on to the part of his strategy that’s most likely to backfire so that he can share blame later.

Happy to oblige, says the Speaker.

“I frankly think the president’s request is a sound one. I think there’s a lot more that we need to be doing, but there’s no reason for us not to do what the president asked us to do,” the Ohio Republican said…

As for a broader Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the fight against the Islamic State, which some members of both parties have called for, Mr. Boehner said that typically, the White House would be the one to make a request to have Congress vote on such an authorization and the administration has not done so yet.

“This is an interim step to do what the president’s asked for, it does not preclude us from revisiting the issue of a broader use of military force,” Mr. Boehner said. “As you heard me say last week, I believe that it’s important, frankly, for the Congress to speak on this issue, and when we get to that point, we will.”

A quick recap: Syria’s “moderates” may or may not have just signed a peace treaty with ISIS. A nonprofit backed by the State Department devoted to sending nonlethal aid to the rebels just shut down because Syria is too thick with jihadis at this point. There are, in fact, so many different groups that comprise the Sunni opposition in Syria that it’s unclear at this point which ones, precisely, will be receiving U.S. help. Some House Democrats who are looking at this and who are expected to act as a rubber-stamp for O are, understandably, getting nervous:

“The more I get briefed the more concerned I am,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, explaining why he thought he could not support the measure.

McGovern called Obama’s assertion he has authority to conduct air strikes under a 2001 law “ludicrous” and said the administration’s plan – that had just been detailed by Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken – didn’t make sense.

“I don’t get it, I don’t understand the end game, I don’t understand how this is supposed to work,” McGovern said.

If lefties are wavering, why isn’t the GOP leadership making more of a stink? The only answer I can come up with is midterm positioning. Republicans think they’re destined to take the Senate unless something dramatic happens before November so they’ve resolved to make sure that nothing dramatic happens. That means no showy fights with the president when he’s in commander-in-chief mode and trying to rally the country for a new mission in Iraq — with some surprising success. That speech last week wasn’t a total bust:


He helped himself in every metric, especially the air campaign. Three different pollsters now find majority support for Obama’s broader strategy against ISIS: 62 percent per NBC, 64 percent per Reuters, and 53 percent per Pew, which includes 60 percent support among Democrats and 64 percent support among Republicans. The Pew poll now also shows voters evenly divided at 41 percent on whether Obama’s strategy goes too far or not far enough(!), a point Boehner himself makes below. A month ago, that split was 51/32. Likewise, Reuters notes that 53 percent of the public say they’ll support the mission even if it takes two to three years, as the White House has estimated. That’s a striking show of support from an electorate that’s supposed to be war-weary, and it dovetails with Republican voters’ own tilt back towards hawkishness. Go figure that Boehner would want to stay on the right side of all that politically — even though none of the polls mentioned above zeroed in on the perilous arm-the-rebels strategy that the House is being asked to support.