Obama’s Glass Half Full on Syria

The mood in Congress regarding the administration’s demand for a use of force resolution to enable a punitive attack on Syria improved overnight with the emergence of a new draft resolution that sharply limits the scope and duration of any intervention. Unveiled by Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez and ranking Republican Bob Corker, it provides a 60-day window for military strikes with a 30-day extension possible upon notification of Congress. Just as importantly, it bans deployment of ground troops other than for some specifically justified rescue mission.

It’s generally thought this language can get through the Foreign Relations Committee by a comfortable margin, perhaps as early as today, though not without strong dissenting words from Rand Paul and possibly from Marco Rubio, who has been vacillating on Syria. The full Senate would then vote on it when it formally reconvenes next week. The timetable for–and prospects for passage in–the House remain uncertain.

On a broader front, there are no immediate prospects for a broadening of the international coalition supporting Obama on Syria. The acceptance of evidence that it was indeed the Assad regime indeed using sarin gas near Damascus last month 6/”>is growing, but not so much the sense that the issue is so urgent that it justifies circumventing the U.N. Security Council’s theoretical control over collective security actions, which Assad’s ally Russia can effectively block.

The president would have an easier time detaching himself momentarily from the struggle for support in Washington if his international travel did not center on Russia, for a G20 summit that may now be entirely overshadowed by Syria. So for better or worse, the administration’s plans for September, whatever they were a couple of weeks ago, are a complete hash.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.