Two weeks ago Reuters dropped a mini-bombshell in revealing that the House and Senate Intel Committees had frozen Obama’s funding of the Syria rebels due to the clusterfark potential of U.S. involvement there. I wrote at the time, very stupidly, that the fact that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to intervention might encourage Congress to hold the line on this one. Why enable Obama in a massively unpopular foreign-policy endeavor? Deny him the funds and then dare him to complain about it.
The lesson I take from today’s update is that there’s really no amount of public disapproval that will stop Congress from caving to the president when he wants to intervene somewhere. Sometimes they want a little more input from the White House than usual before they cut a check, but they’ll cut it eventually.
President Barack Obama should be able to go ahead with a plan to arm the Syrian rebels after some congressional concerns were eased, the chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said on Monday.
“We believe we are in a position that the administration can move forward,” Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican, told Reuters…
“It is important to note that there are still strong reservations,” he said. “We got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration’s plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations.”
The twisted punchline is that the committees have more reason to be pessimistic now than they did two weeks ago, when the money was frozen. The two big stories to come out of Syria since then are the rebels starting to wage war on each other and the Taliban sending fighters to join the rebellion in the name of jihad. Surreal though it may seem, we’re now technically their allies vis-a-vis Assad. More surreally, just two days after the Reuters story broke about Congress freezing O’s Syria funds, British intelligence reminded everyone that the surest way to get chemical weapons into jihadi hands is … to topple Assad, our ostensible goal in all this. But then, if bad news in public polling is irrelevant to the White House’s intervention calculus, bad news on the ground in Syria actually seems to bolster their desire to intervene. The worse things get for the rebels, the more jihadi degenerates flow into Syria, the more urgently we need to get in there and try to gain some sort of leverage over near-total chaos. And what if the early shipments of money and small arms to “moderate” rebels don’t work? Maybe we’ll have to do more. Via Robert Caruso, Martin Dempsey tried to price that out in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee today:
He also priced out an air campaign to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile. That would also a cost a billion per month and would eliminate “some, but not all” of his arsenal. Quote: “Thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites.”
One other X factor here: Pretty soon Iraq’s going to be part of this and the scale of the war’s going to widen further. It already is part of it to some extent, with another Iranian-backed regime fending off attacks from Sunni jihadis, but things can get worse. Go read this report, also from Reuters, about the gigantic jailbreak at Abu Ghraib today in which hundreds of prisoners, including some senior Al Qaeda leaders, were sprung. Where are they headed now? Syria or Anbar province? Or both?