We never tire of reminding people that in its first issue, in November 1955, the conservative journal of opinion National Review took a gentle jab at the Central Intelligence Agency. An attempt to assassinate the Indonesian military strongman Sukarno had all the highlights of a CIA operation, the magazine declared, because “everyone in the room was killed but Sukarno.”
We drag out that old chestnut to suggest that questioning the effectiveness of the U.S. intelligence services is nothing new. The topic has become relevant again now that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been trying to build the case for an attack on Syria to punish the government of President Bashar Al-Assad for using poison gas against his own people. The president long ago declared the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army would be crossing a “red line” that required a U.S. response.
Last week, the president let it be known he was considering unleashing an attack on Syria — it would most likely involve cruise missiles — in response to a Syrian attack on civilians that left more than 1,000 people dead. Those plans had to be put on hold after the British House of Commons rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s request for authorization for Britain to take part in the retaliatory attack. No prime minister had lost such a vote since 1782.
In response, Obama decided to ask Congress for a resolution of support for what the president has called a “shot across the bow” at Syria. This came at an awkward time, since the president has made much of late of his ability to do things on his own without consulting with the House and Senate. This should be interesting.