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Abrams: Reject Obama on Election Day—but Authorize Presidential Action Now

10:42 AM, Sep 2, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Elliott Abrams, writing in Politico, has a devastating critique of Obama's foreign policy—and a call for Republicans to vote to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime. Here's Abrams:

Surely this episode will be studied in schools of government for decades, as an example of how foreign policy should never be conducted: without apparent guiding principle, unpredictably, by fits and starts, and via statements and speeches that are misleading if they are not incoherent.

Does anyone know what the president now really wants? The spectrum of theories ranges from really wanting a “no” vote that takes him off the hook to seeking a robust majority for “yes” that allows quiet expansion of the target list so that a great blow can be struck against Assad. When the president leads us into military action this way, his own goals and tactics shifting by the week, it is not surprising that he has not been able to garner much support.

I favor a strike at Syria, and did before the chemical weapons use by Assad. I thought two years ago that “Assad must go” and was glad the president appeared to reach that conclusion. I thought it shameful that the United States then did nothing to help the rebellion against Assad. It seemed to me foolish and dangerous that we watched from the sidelines while rebel groups seeking our help were decimated and Islamist groups got plenty of cash and guns from the Gulf states, while jihadis arrived in the thousands. I thought it incredible that a major policy change in June, to giving military help to the rebels, was announced via a White House staffer — and then even more incredible that in the months since, no such aid has flowed.

The congressional vote will be difficult for many Republicans, in part because of their resentment at the way this administration has pilloried them for four and half years. I share the resentment, as a former Bush White House staffer. I recall very well the accusations of “unilateralism” that Democrats, including thenSenator Obama, hurled at us — when we intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq armed with congressional votes, U.N. Security Council resolutions, and broad coalitions of dozens of nations. Now Obama has destroyed those coalitions, and seeks approval to use force with one sole ally at hand, France, and without any U.N. vote.

I would give him that authority, to be sure, but I would ask for something more from the White House, something entirely missing today: clarity of purpose, and an explanation that links purpose to tactics....Congress can, by its questioning of senior officials, in the floor debate, and in the terms of its resolutions, perhaps restore some of what we have lost.

Despite this administration’s incompetence, the United States and our allies will be worse off, and our enemies emboldened, if Congress votes no. The time to reject Obama’s failures in foreign and domestic policy is on Election Day 2014, not in the Syria vote.

Read the whole thing here.

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