Obama, the presidential candidate who promised not to get America into wars, is on the verge of inserting America into the tar baby to end all tar babies:* Syria’s civil war. A lot of people are asking why in the world he’s doing this. John Hinderaker thinks that Obama’s going to lob a few missiles into Syria in order to get some political cover for his ill-advised “red line” statement a year ago. (I.e., if Syria uses WMDs, Obama’s going to have to think about acting decisively.)
I answered the same question differently. I think Obama’s going to lob missiles because he can. When he actually put boots on the ground in Libya, Congress huffed and puffed, but did exactly nothing to stop Obama’s illegal exercise of Congress’s war power. Obama learned from that.
In every area, Obama is testing and pushing just how far he can go without Congress doing a darn thing to stop him. Congress acquiesces when he refuses to enforce laws he doesn’t agree with, such as dealing with illegal immigrants? Check. Congress does nothing when Obama unilaterally amends legislation, as he’s been doing repeated with ObamaCare, doing everything from exemptions to delays, none of which are allowed under the law? Check. Congress does nothing when Obama embarks upon a war with Libya without first getting Congress’s go-ahead? Check.
Obama fully understands that the phrase “use it or lose it” applies with as much force to institutions as it does to individuals. Every time Congress fails to act to protect its turf against an approaching executive, Congress loses power and Obama gains it.
I am not comparing Obama to Hitler here, but it is instructive to note that Hitler invariably did a little testing before he launched full-out onslaughts. The most notable example, of course, were his decisions to inch his way into Austria and the Sudetenland. Britain, which was the only power he worried about, huffed and puffed, but stood aside. The message to Hitler was clear: today Austria and the Sudentenland, tomorrow all of Europe, and if that works, Russia and the rest of the world.
In this regard, it’s also worth noting that Hitler’s genocidal streak didn’t emerge until he invaded the areas within the Soviet orbit of influence. It was then that his megalomania met Stalin’s successful mass murder in the Ukraine. It’s not just that, had Hitler been stopped earlier, he never would have made it to the pale and released his madness on “inferior” people. It was that, because his ambitions had never been checked early on, his sense of his limitless power grew. He want from viewing England’s weakness as a tacit acceptance of his territorial ambitions, to believing that he had God-like powers to destroy.
Again, I am not comparing Obama to Hitler. Obama doesn’t want world conquest (yet) and I doubt he’ll ever become genocidal (although, given free rein, he might pull a Mugabe in terms of shifting ownership from whites to everyone else), but I am saying that, if you allow people to get a little power to which they’re not entitled, they’re going to see that as license to take a lot. Or as Lord Acton so nicely put it, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolute.”
*For the young ‘uns, “tar baby” is not an allusion to Obama’s skin color. It comes, instead, from Southern folktales about Brer Rabbit trying to fight a doll made of tar and getting further and further entangled with it.