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Syria resolution: Why Obama proposal is failing the Goldilocks test

The draft resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria is being perceived as either too hard or too soft by doves and hawks in Congress. Obama says he expects lawmakers to get it right.

By Staff writer / September 3, 2013

President Barack Obama speaks to media in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, before a meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss the situation in Syria.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Washington

The resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria that Congress is expected to vote on sometime next week will no doubt undergo numerous tweaks and revisions, but the draft offered by the White House is so far failing the Goldilocks test.

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Some members of Congress say what they’ve seen is too hard, others say it’s too soft. Unfazed, President Obama says he’s confident that by the end of a week or so of debate, the administration and the Congress will have come up with wording that is just right.

Speaking at the White House Tuesday as he met with Congressional leaders from both major parties, Mr. Obama said he welcomes the participation of Congress in fashioning a resolution on the use of force that both sends a “clear message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and sets back his ability to use chemical weapons again.

Obama says he’s confident Congress is “going to be able to come up with something that hits that mark.”

The draft resolution the White House sent to Congress Saturday didn’t seem to be to almost anyone’s liking. Hawks said it was little more than a slap on the wrist to Mr. Assad and might be worse than doing nothing. More dovish critics said the proposed resolution was woefully open-ended and amounted to a slippery slope to deeper US involvement in Syria.

Given those two opposing perspectives, will it indeed be possible to find wording that is just right?

As proposed, the resolution states the following:

“The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in Syria.”

The draft then specifies the two goals of the authorized use of force:

One is to “prevent or deter the use or proliferation … within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction.”

The second is to “protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons” 

For the “too hard” camp, the resolution will have to include some limits on how the president is authorized to use force before they will go along.

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