Updated at 6:27 a.m. 9/9/11: This post was updated to provide more context regarding the mission in Syria and to compare it to last year’s debate.
Maine’s two senators, both of whom serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, offered preliminary support of President Barack Obama’s newly announced plan to strike at an increasingly potent terrorist group in the Middle East.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, said many questions remain about the potential effectiveness of Obama’s plan to strike at the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, as currently outlined. ”
Ultimately, the effectiveness of the president’s plan will pivot upon his resolve to follow through on the words he delivered tonight,” she said in a release. “It will also depend upon the contributions of our regional allies like Saudi Arabia, which must do more to combat the terrorist threat posed not only by ISIS, but also by a resurgent al-Qaeda that has metastasized and has a presence in more than 20 countries or territories.”
Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said much of the success of Obama’s plans depend on support from regional allies and the newly formed Iraqi government.
“On balance, I think the president did what he had to do – laying out the case for action and defining the elements of a comprehensive strategy – which does not include American ground combat forces – to meet this serious threat,” he said in a release.
The White House has said it currently has the authority to engage in airstrikes in Syria, as it already has been in Iraq, without officially coming to Congress for consent. But the president said he would like to see Congress to engage in dialogue about the effort moving forward. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed tacit support for the president’s plan, but its unclear if leadership on either side will press for a vote authorizing further funds or military action.
One thing is clear – there’s a difference between this year’s debate to strike within Syria’s borders and the debate around Syria strikes last year at this time. When Obama asked Congress for the authority to strike last year, following reports of chemical weapons use by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his own people, it was for humanitarian reasons. This time it’s about a threat that allegedly could be against the homeland.
But also, public opinion has changed a bit, thanks to the filmed beheadings of two American journalists by the Islamic State.
Legally, one could argue there are lots of questions – do we have right to breach Syria’s border since their leadership (Assad) said no? Does the president have the right to engage in a military campaign there beyond 90 days (the time limit given in the War Powers act) without permission from Congress?
But somehow these have a way of never really getting in the way, if enough adults in the room in D.C. don’t think they should.