On Syria, clear objective is a must before proceeding

The Oklahoman Editorial Modified: September 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm •  Published: September 5, 2013

BARACK Obama has an interesting understanding of presidential power.

The freedom to practice one's religion is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, yet Obama has no problem trampling that right by forcing citizens to subsidize abortion through Obamacare insurance policies in direct violation of their faith. Similarly, Obama has not hesitated to unilaterally pick and choose what portions of federal law his administration will enforce, a practice that imitates the worst traits of long-dead European monarchs.

Yet on the issue of Syria, Obama is now the most deferential of presidents. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States ...” The president has power to act, but with Syria, Obama wants to play the role of bystander.

In areas where presidential power is supposed to be limited, Obama sees no limits. But in the one arena where a president has significant latitude, Obama insists — this time, after flying solo in deciding to attack Libya — that he's trapped in amber.

As a general rule, we oppose congressional micromanagement of the president's role as commander in chief. From a political standpoint, it's good to get pre-emptive buy-in from Congress and the general public before undertaking military action. From a pragmatic standpoint, that isn't always possible. National defense can require swift action incompatible with lengthy debates or the recess-filled congressional calendar. The enemies of the United States don't simply twiddle their thumbs in the meantime.

National defense isn't limited to responding to a direct attack on U.S. soil. Actions in faraway lands do have ripple effects that can impact the United States. Supporters of military action reasonably argue that if the United States shrugs off Syria's use of chemical weapons, other rogue nations will be emboldened. Given North Korea's and Iran's nuclear obsessions and terrorist ties, that could have severe consequences for long-term U.S. security.

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