President Obama had better take care in his consultations with Congress on plans to combat the Islamic State. Secretary of State John Kerry may be able to assemble a durable coalition of overseas partners to join with U.S. forces. But any congressional buy-in to Obama’s strategy is likely to come in the form of a short-term loan that will get called if the going gets rough.
In tackling the Islamic State, Congress is confronted with two incompatible goals: eliminating the terror group as a threat to U.S. national security and avoiding another major military commitment in the Middle East. Satisfying those opposing imperatives will be Congress’s preoccupation.
The likely stratagem for responding to Obama? A legislative maneuver honed over years: Have it both ways.
Recall when Obama announced in the Rose Garden in August 2013 that military strikes were the right thing to do in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons?
Obama was responding, in part, to congressional hawks such as Sen. John McCain who demanded action in the face of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s carnage against his own people. The president’s reluctance to enter the Syrian morass had been loudly denounced on Capitol Hill. Calls for intervention and humanitarian action rained down on the White House.