Link Roundups

Weekly Links

By Taylor Marvin

Alphonse Legros, The Triumph of Death: After the Battle. Via the National Gallery of Art.

Alphonse Legros, The Triumph of Death: After the Battle. Via the National Gallery of Art.

Syria continues to dominate the news. Fred Kaplan, Amy Davidson, and Max Fisher cheer President Obama’s decision to ask for congressional approval before conducting airstrikes, though Fisher notes that while the delay may be an important reining-in of the imperial presidency, it’s bad for Syrians. Last week — before Obama made his announcement — Jonathan Bernstein discussed why going to Congress before wars helps presidents by forcing them out of the Executive Branch information bubble. Frederic C. Hof reads the decision as a “jarring change of direction” and another in a series of missteps that Hof attributes to a “mystifying lack of preparedness” by the administration (via Blake Hounshell).

Obama was set on ordering attacks last weekend until a Friday decision that overruled his senior advisors, reporting indicates. Syrian opposition leaders are distressed by the news.

Conventional wisdom says that Congress will grant Obama the authority to act, thought nothing is certain and some senators have expressed interest in broadening the planned strike’s goals. Congress is also divided over the wisdom of consulting with itself. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), signatory to a letter asking Obama to seek congressional authorization, supports the decision, citing the lack of an immanent threat in Syria and the risk of unintended consequences. Conversely, Representative Peter King (R-NY) slammed the President for “abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents.” Davidson wittily remarks that “abdicating” is a “verb that tells you a lot about why this was a good decision.”

By announcing that he will wait for congressional input Obama has essentially put the Assad regime on notice that the United States hopes to strike, but is unlikely to reach an actual decision for over a week. Some commenters are wary of this warning. “The arrogance and casual expectation by the Obama administration that assumes Syria will simply roll over in the face of limited US military power disturbs me,” writes naval analyst Raymond Pritchett and Walter Russell Mead finds “little to quarrel with in President Obama’s speech — beyond the usual observation that telling your opponents that your military attacks will be limited and short term is probably not the wisest course.” For his part Assad continues to maintain that strikes would not keep his regime from fighting.

Across the Atlantic, Alex Massie looks at how David Cameron misjudged Parliamentary support for UK action. France has announced that it will not act alone. This is unsurprising: while the Libyan air campaign was much more intense than anything proposed in Syria, it notably revealed  France and other NATO allies’ reliance on the US for sustained power projection.

Seth Kaplan brainstorms seven different scenarios for the future of Syria, running from a regime victory to complete state failure (via Sam Roggeveen).

Israelis fear that the US debate over Syria signals an unwillingness to play tough with Iran. On Twitter, Jeffrey Lewis comments that Obama and Cameron’s difficulties organizing strikes on Syria is “a spectacular demonstration of why we shouldn’t attack Iran.”

A rare wedding in Damascus offers Syrians a respite from war (via Hayat Alvi). Syria’s Alawite-dominated coast, a regime stronghold, remains peaceful and free from sectarian violence. Last week Syria Comment noted that a rebel victory would likely mean dragging these previously-untouched regions of the country into the war, at great human cost.

In Egypt, reporting on a suicide attack in the Sinai highlights the weapons of modern militancy: “I saw three men… one carried an RPG, the second carried a machine gun, and the third carried a large video camera.”

In the Central African Republic thousands flee amid fighting (via Stability Journal).

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