The New York Times and Pat Buchanan warn that the United States is being drawn into the Syrian civil war, now a regional conflict. President Obama is allowing himself to be pressed by Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus, John McCain, and other hawks who wish the United States to impose a no-fly zone and a safe zone over Syria into annulling the sole positive “legacy” of his destructive seven-year administration—the retreat from military intervention and adventurism around the world—by ordering 50 members of Special Operations into that hopeless country. “Mission creep,” Buchanan says, “has begun. The tripwire is being put down. Yet, who authorized Obama to take us into this war? The Russians and Iranians are in Syria at the invitation of the government. But Obama has no authorization from Congress to put our combat troops into Syria.”
Obama is approaching his constitutional limit to office. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Paul Ryan has just been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, the body whose constitutional right and responsibility it is to declare war. Ryan owes his new position to the guarded consent of the so-called Freedom Caucus among the House Republicans, which is watching his every move through narrowed eyes. The Freedom Caucus, or Tea Party conservatives, are sworn to dissolve the bond between corporate and congressional Republicans—between big business and the federal government—but also to put an end to military intervention abroad. In his address to the House after his election, Ryan mused on how nice it would be if the government succeeded in overhauling the tax code, expanding the economy, restructuring the federal heath-insurance system, relieving poverty, reducing the federal debt, and . . . strengthening the military.
Every American politician since 1945 has promised to “strengthen the military”—before 1991, to win the Cold War; since then, to “lead” the world. What purpose does Paul Ryan envisage for a strengthened military? If it is to impose peace in the Middle East, by force and almost single-handedly, and to show Putin up—the Indispensable Nation rides again—Ryan’s tenure is likely to be a short one. Indeed, he is likely to rue the day he agreed to become Speaker of the House. If, on the other hand, he were to challenge the White House by insisting on Congress’s constitutional prerogative and refuse to pass a war resolution, he would be off to a very strong start.