President Barack Obama meets with Members of Congress to discuss Syria in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 3, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Before leaving for Sweden and the G20, President Barack Obama meets with Members of Congress to discuss Syria in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 3, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Update >>> Syria authorization passes in Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10-7, now goes to full Senate. McCain, Flake & Corker vote with Obama.

AFTER CAMPAIGNING to get Congress to support Obama on Syria, Senator John McCain said today that the draft Senate resolution wasn’t sufficiently strong for him to support it. So, you now have McCain working to give back more power to the executive branch. It gives you a perfect contrast between Republicans and Democrats on the divisions of power and how Congress versus the presidency is seen by the two parties.

While this was breaking, President Obama was in the middle of a press conference in Sweden, a stop before the G20. Taking a moment to reflect on Mr. Obama, it’s clear that the Syria crisis and the efforts to get support for a strike have awakened him profoundly. Understanding that the Administration’s middle east policy has floundered for some time, Obama did something extraordinary today, which is a continuation of last week’s Rose Garden address on Syria.

Instead of using the usual jingoism we’re so used to hearing from presidents on the way to using military action, President Obama has chosen a different tactic, which is moored in blunt honesty and transparency that reveals his heart, passion and purpose behind a leader’s horror at seeing Assad systematically slaughtering his people, which basically amounts to ethnic cleansing. Obama’s performance today in Sweden was the most transparent he’s been on matters of war and peace, as he referred to his Nobel Peace Prize speech in answering a question, with the remarks at the time shocking many seasoned watchers. When receiving the award he talked about the collision of war and peace when the American president confronts it in real time. Today, Obama specifically referred the press to this speech, which you’ll be reminded was not an anti war doctrine, but one of pragmatic leadership in a world of bad actors.

Van Jones, who has gone from saying “strike this week” to doing a 180 and no longer supporting a strike, and Tavis Smiley, as well as many in the progressive community, should re-read this speech and reacquaint themselves with the man in the White House who on Syria is being true to himself and his world philosophy, whether people like it or not.

And yet, a decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states — all these things have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work, and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naïve — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

We’ve come full circle with Barack Obama, with his performance as president today in the throes of a bruising political showdown on Syria one of his finest moments. That it would come as his policy in the middle east was exposed is a point where humility reached his heart. It’s given a window for a man who’s willing for the first time, I would say, to inspire himself to find the confidence to speak from his heart, throwing away props and tele-prompters, something he had chosen not to do before, because he was always so intent on performance instead of revealing his humanness to the people.

Below is the statement from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez [h/t TPM] on the draft resolution to get President Obama the support he seeks, with the text of the draft below that:

“Sharing President Obama’s view that our nation is best served when we come together as one, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has crafted a bipartisan Authorization for the Use of Military Force that we believe reflects the will and concerns of Democrats and Republicans alike. Together we have pursued a course of action that gives the President the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorization is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the Armed Forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria. The mass atrocity committed by the Assad regime in grave violation of international law requires American leadership. We have an obligation to act, not witness and watch while a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in plain view. With this agreement, we are one step closer to granting the President the authority to act in our national security interest. I thank Ranking Member Corker for his continued collaboration and partnership and look forward to our work together in the days ahead.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Syria AUMF