September 5, 2013
Putin, Obama
Putin and Obama at a singularly awkward G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, today.

President Obama’s White House is working overtime to justify hitting Syria. Unfortunately, they are mostly trying to convince members of Congress rather than the people ourselves. So the whole project rests upon the people’s trust in Congress to represent their interests.

You do not have to be Dana Milbank to see the problem here. But, as Milbank writes, our government keeps whispering to itself about the truly compelling evidence only it gets to see. Which might have worked 10 years ago, but it’s harder to get fooled again. One hopes. But hey, if Congress gets convinced enough, it won’t matter what we think in any case — “we” meaning the press as well as general Americans as well as commenters on The Washington Post Opinions page.

aaronweiner, for example, concludes that the secrecy masks weak evidence:

If it’s obvious from the intelligence that Assad is responsible, and we know the end result, what’s the danger of releasing that intelligence with the American people?
The people HATE the idea of this war, some with a passion. If you have valid intelligence that Assad is responsible – common sense suggests otherwise – then why would you keep that in when you know that based on the current evidence, the large majority of people do not want this war?
Even if Assad did use chemical weapons, we need to have a clearly defined exit strategy and a clear mission objective. We’re at least a decade past the idea of vague, open-ended wars of ideology.

helloisanyoneoutthere says the secrecy might not be about Syria at all:

Do you think Russia and China wouldn’t want to know what our technological capabilities are?

archeopteryx says Obama’s appeal to Congress is only necessary because the people wouldn’t be convinced — and Obama might not be, either:

You’ll note he hasn’t actually [intervened] yet. He’s clearly ambivalent about Syria for the reasons you point out. There may well be no “good guys” and there may well be no “good options.” Why do you think he’s tossed it over the wall to Congress?

dandrbelfe sees Obama’s hesitance as a reason to believe the secret evidence is compelling, as opposed to the Bush administration’s evidence justifying war with Iraq:

Here’s the difference: Bush was itching to become a “war president” while Obama has been trying mightily to avoid engaging the military. Under the circumstances, I tend to believe that chemical weapons have in fact been used in Syria.

Jumper actually has faith in the political process, including the current players!

A good lesson in why a republican form of government is a necessity. We can’t telegraph our punches, but are also hamstrung by secrecy. There’s not a heck of a lot the ordinary citizen can do, lacking security clearance. Where is the public dialog with the Syrians? Surely they want to know, at least, where we stand. What we believe. Who we would support, if they were able to provide believable assurances.

And bloviate, possessor of an excellent username, demonstrates the kind of ice we’ll need in our veins to justify not acting, derived from the evidence we can see:

The main reason to do nothing is the fact that we have reached a point where the only people killing Muslims in the Middle East is primarily other Muslims. Once the fracking movement liberates us totally from their oil (not long now) get out your popcorn.

Oy. That’s pretty cynical even for PostScript, but if it makes our path in the Middle East clearer she’ll get a solar panel already.