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Congressional Resolution or Not, Syrian Action Buck Will Stop at Obama’s Desk

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(L-R) U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the topic of "The Authorization of Use of Force in Syria" September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is attempting to enlist the support of members of the U.S. Congress for military action against the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own people last month.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(L-R) U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the topic of “The Authorization of Use of Force in Syria” September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is attempting to enlist the support of members of the U.S. Congress for military action against the Syrian government for using chemical weapons against its own people last month. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

Many of the headlines over the past few days regarding Syria have belonged to how President Obama is seeking Congressional approval for any potential military action. Drafts of resolutions have been released and political leaders have been busy posturing on one side or the other.

But regardless of the details in any Congressional resolution or how many politicians announce their own opinions of the situation, the success or failure of our actions in Syria will rest squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.

The President may be reconciling with his former Senator self by going to Congress for its opinion of the matter, but the fact is that if things go terribly wrong in Syria, very few if any will remember that Congress had anything to do with the decision.

And the flip side is also true. If somehow a few well placed tomahawk missiles teach the Assad regime a lesson and bring an end to the use of chemical weapons, the President will get the credit.

If you need any further proof that the President will solely bear the responsibility for actions in Syria, just look at how fast Congress is actually moving on this issue. It’s not as if every Congressperson is hearing an outcry from constituents over what’s happening in Syria. Yet, Congress is moving faster on this issue than they did on Congressional pay raises.

If any Senator or Congressperson felt that they will be held personally responsible for their vote on action in Syria, much more debate would occur and much more time would be needed.

But since it’s clear that the President is merely seeking a rubber stamp, action is moving faster than a Peyton Manning two minute drill.

For me, this begs the question, why it was so important to seek Congressional approval in the first place?

I realize that the whole “checks and balances” idea that is usually represented in our government is still seen as a romantic illusion by most Americans when it comes to military action. But let’s be serious, when it comes to putting the United States military in harms way, when was the last time a President didn’t get his way? And if the record is perfect, then is Congressional approval simply a formality to make everyone feel better?

It seems to me that the whole idea of Congressional approval should actually come with considerable debate and the possibility that approval may not be granted. If a rubber stamp is all that is needed, then we’re simply trivializing the checks and balances system.

President Obama is not the first President to seek Congressional approval to do what he intends to do with or without its approval anyway. He’s in a long, proud line of Presidents who have given lip service to the Congressional approval process.

This may feel a bit too much like Mr. Smith goes to Washington for some folks, but the only way this charade will be put to rest is for constituents to speak up. If voters don’t care, it will be very hard for members of Congress to care as well.

In the end, it is much easier for everyone to go through the exercise and simply know that the buck will stop where it has always stopped, on the President’s desk. All I am saying is that it is time we are honest with ourselves. Our friends and family members risking their lives everyday serving in our military deserve at least that.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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