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How Will Obama Respond to a No Vote on Syria?

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President Bashar Assad (credit: CBS)

President Bashar Assad (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

What seemed like a rubber stamp approval from Congress last week on military action in Syria has turned into something far more complicated for the President. Initially, Congressional leaders from both parties made it seem that an affirmative Congressional vote on the President’s plan was all but secured.

However, after several members of Congress from both parties have come out against the proposed plan and with public anti-war rallies growing, Congressional approval is far from secured at this point.

This begs the question, how will President Obama respond to a vote from Congress that does not approve of what he proposes to do in Syria?

On one hand, if President Obama decides to act without Congress, he sets himself up to become one of the top hypocrites in recent memory since he was a staunch opponent of the Iraq war and how it was handled by President George W. Bush.

MORE FROM CBSNEWS.COM: Assad says any U.S. strike on Syria “is going to support al Qaeda”

On the other hand, if the President does nothing, all of the terrible things that he has predicted would happen to the United States if we did not act may come to pass on his watch, all because he couldn’t make a compelling enough case to a Congress, half of which is controlled by his own party.


It’s almost as if the political scenarios for the President are as dark as the possible scenarios in Syria.

But as potentially damaging politically to the President a no vote may be, it may actually give Obama the cover to pull out of his commitment to engage in the Syrian conflict without completely losing face.

I know this seems strange, but follow me here.

If Congress tells the President that he should not proceed, and the President heeds that vote, he can stand on the idea that he was willing to act upon what was happening, but the people of the United States did not want to engage in the situation. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pivots and blames a “no” vote on the Bush administration and the war fatigue that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused.

Another result could be a more productive response from the United Nations to respond to the general civil war in Syria, rather than just punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. That is truly the way something like this should be handled, as frustrating as working with the U.N. can be.

At face value, the use of chemical weapons is something heinous enough that should garner international attention. However, the Assad regime could probably turn an attack from the United States into its gain far easier than heed it as a warning to not use Sarin gas.

But even if Assad does learn the lesson, his response isn’t likely to simply give up power or to coddle the rebels. He could learn the lesson and simply kill thousands in his own country with conventional weapons instead of using chemical weapons and thereby not be attacked by the U.S. If that happens, would that really be worth our involvement?

These are the questions arising from both Congress and the public as conversations grow on this topic. Many of the negative outcomes are being discussed, but funny enough, very few if any positive scenarios are being outlined or even imagined.

If there are no positive outcomes to imagine and only negative possibilities to come to fruition, maybe a no vote will be the perfect way for the President to extract himself from the Syrian conflict.

The advice he may be forced to heed in the end will be the sage wisdom from the Joshua computer in the movie, War Games. “The only winning move is not to play.”

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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