Obama's Missing Pressure Group
Barack Obama has enlisted various groups to pressure Congress to give him authority to take military action in Syria. But one particular group has remained off his list, apparently -- and it is the one group that should be the most committed. Why are they immune from White House pressure?
President Obama has committed an unforced error -- a mistake that he could easily avoided had he been a smarter, more experienced leader. He boasted that Syria would not be allowed to cross a red line: the use of chemical weapons. Assad ignored the declaration by Obama -- as most of America's adversaries have done over the last 5 years. But Obama needs to take action that is just muscular enough to avoid being mocked-in the words of one of his own officials.
But he wants to rope Congress into the decision-for political reasons.
So he has pressured various pro-Israel groups to issue declarations of support for his efforts to round up votes in Congress. If he were not such an inept leader who has burned so many bridges and thrown so many people under the bus he may have been able to generate support in Congress without calling in reinforcements.
But, alas, he is not a good leader.
As has been reported by various news outlets, the pro-Israel lobby was "asked" by the White House to use (up?) its influence in Congress to push this issue.
Therefore, in the last two days AIPAC (a pro-Israel group), the Anti-Defamation League, and the Republican Jewish Coalition have come out to support Obama's efforts in Congress.
Already this has revived charges of Jewish control of American foreign policy.
This was a canard that emerged during the Iraq War -- though Bush did not "ask" Jewish groups to become involved, and Jewish groups remain uninvolved and silent.
President Bush was a leader who worked with Congress to get the authority to act in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, Obama will not deign to lower himself to do so. Perhaps George Bush knew that to ask others to bear the brunt of responsibility was un-presidential and weak. Perhaps Bush was sensitive to the risk that anti-Semitism would be ignited if he asked any Jewish groups for support -- a sensitivity that apparently is absent in Barack Obama.
The charges of dual loyalty dissipated because the Jewish community had not issued any call to arms and was not asked to use its influence in Congress. There were no "smoking guns" that would lead people to believe Jewish Americans were pushing for war.
Now that has changed and the conspiracy theorists are already charged up.
Example: A New York Times story deleted its mention of AIPAC because it was redundant from a previous day's story about Congress and Syria (see this Politico column). This elicited a series of stories about AIPAC controlling the media and forcing the mention of AIPAC out of New York Times. These included outlets with fairly large readership (among them were The Daily Beast (Newsweek), Slate Magazine, The Nation, Politico, etc.).
Even The Atlantic has gone off the deep-end. Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary:
There was never much doubt that sooner or later any debate about U.S. action on Syria would get around to an effort to drag the "Israel Lobby" canard out of the closet. While some on the right are wrongly characterizing the case for striking the Assad regime's ability to use chemical weapons as Obama's war for "al-Qaeda in Syria," some on the left are back to riding their own favorite hobbyhorses and blaming the whole thing on Israel. That's the upshot of a piece published on the Atlantic's website in which James Fallows posted a lengthy quote from William R. Polk in which the author and former State Department staffer seeks not only to claim that the proof of chemical weapons was cooked up by Israel but that the Jewish state used chemical weapons in Lebanon and Gaza. Suffice it to say the former charge is contradicted by the large body of evidence about what happened in Syria that has been made public in the last week as the impact of the most recent use of chemical weapons by Assad became clear. The latter charges are simply lies.
That such weak and nasty stuff should get an airing at the Atlantic is troubling. But it is just as unfortunate to read accounts in other mainstream outlets such as the New York Times that the Obama administration appears to be counting on supporters of Israel to pull the president's chestnuts out of the fire on Syria. While Israel certainly has an interest in the survival of American influence in the Middle East, the idea of shifting the discussion from one that revolves around America's credibility and national security to one that seeks to parse the decision as either good or bad for the Jewish state is a profound misreading of the administration's problem. No endorsement from Israel or AIPAC can substitute for the ability of the president and his team to articulate a case for the sort of action that they know they must take
So my question is: since Jewish organizations have been drafted into this effort in Congress (that will once again lead to anti-Semitism) where are all those Arab-American groups? Why don't we read articles about them working on Congressmen? Why hasn't the White House pressured them to become involved in this effort? After all, it is their people being murdered by the tens of thousands. At the very least it would reduce charges about Jews and Israel and Washington -- even if Arab-American groups don't have as much sway as other groups.
Aren't these the various groups that raise hell when there is even a whiff of prejudice towards Muslims? Barack Obama has constantly hosted these groups in the White House -- and not just to celebrate Muslim holidays. The White House has their contact information and has close relationships with them.
Here we have a case where at least 100,000 Muslims have been murdered and these groups have been all but invisible in efforts to save their own people's lives.
But they remain out of the picture.
Americans may wonder why these groups are immune from White House pressure.