and Syria by Charles Goyette
| September 6, 2013
With all eyes on the prospect
of a U.S. strike on Syria, the market in its collective
judgment seemed quite certain Wednesday that gold prices
should be lower. To make the point it finished more than
$20 lower, below $1400. Gold traded lower again on Thursday
Bretton Woods Research suggested that action
may mean the strike is unlikely, observing that gold below
$1390 was “almost $30 lower than before Prime Minister
Cameron’s stunning defeat at the conclusion of last
Thursday’s debate in the House of Commons on UK involvement
If war-making is to be averted in Washington,
it will have to be done in the House. That is because members
of the lower body, closer to the people and up for election
every two year, are reflecting the people’s deep opposition
to the opening of another front in the endless war. The
Senate, ever more remote and imperious, is on board for
more war, especially after two of its own recent members,
now elevated to the Cabinet, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel,
made their appeal for support on Tuesday.
There is something psychologically amiss
in the makeup of our elected representatives. They have
achieved their positions after having spent much of their
lives in the pursuit of power. In their appetite to rule
they have had to trim their own consciences, alter their
own views, and beg for money. They have followed carefully
planned trajectories to achieve office, ever hungry to wield
authority and command power.
And yet, once in office they can’t
wait to pass the hot potato on important issues like war
off to the president.
For example Representative Peter King of
New York, wildly enthusiastic for war at every turn, says
President Obama doesn’t need Congress to launch a
strike in Syria, and that Obama is abdicating his responsibility.
King says “The President doesn’t need 535 Members
of Congress to enforce his own redline.”
Bush the Elder said much the same thing,
claiming that he didn’t the permission of “a
bunch of old goats in Congress” to launch the first
This buck-passing implies a completely authoritarian
state in which the president can go about issuing ultimata
and dictates on his own, with the entire nation hopelessly
committed to enforcing them whatever they may be.
Of course, this impulse to establish a war-making
monarchy in the executive branch is a symptom of legislative
cowardice. If the war is a success, there is plenty of room
on the reviewing stand when the victors return home. If
the war goes badly, the blame is limited to the president.
It was his war.
Most of the people on Capitol Hill didn’t
want have the ball kicked into their court. That is why
the Senate will do nothing to stop Obama. They will tinker
with his proposed war resolution a bit at the margins, thereby
seeming to have fulfilled their legislative mandate. But
they will studiously avoid either declaring or refusing
Their behavior should be alarming; their
unacknowledged fear should highlight the risks. The bellicose
tell us that a strike on Syria will be limited, that the
operation will be over in days, and that we will administer
a thumping and be done with it. Kerry has even gone so far
as to insist that the Arab states are willing to pay for
the whole thing.
(If you wondering where you have heard this
before, you need only think back to Iraq when leading war
architect Paul Wolfowitz insisted that the war would pay
for itself. Ten years later the final bill still isn’t
in and the economy has yet to recover.)
Wars are nothing if not risky enterprises.
Suppress this realization if you wish, but it cannot be
changed. If the outcomes of war were known in advance they
would not be fought. Would Napoleon have marched on Moscow
201 years ago this week if he had foreseen the calamity
of his winter retreat? With foreknowledge of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, would Japan have attacked Pearl Harbor? Would
Bush the Younger have invaded Iraq if he had known that
his splendid little cakewalk war would outlast his two terms?
(Perhaps that last is not the best example since Bush, having
learned nothing from history, would have been perfectly
willing to even invade Moscow in the winter!)
Still, Field Marshall von Moltke famously
observed that no war plan survives contact with the enemy.
And it is that unconscious prospect that doth make cowards
of legislators. For all their tough talk and bluster, an
apprehension lurks deep that the action may unleash unintended
and destructive consequences. They risk uncorking forces
that, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they are unable
Better to defy the Constitution, which indisputably
lodges war-making authority with the representatives of
the people who must pay for and die in such wars, and let
the President decide.
We are confronting authoritarians with such
an appetite for power that they become afraid to wield it
for fear of losing it. It is a subject fit for a Dostoevsky
It was a cause for rejoicing when the British
Parliament refused the Queen’s Prime Minister authority
to let slip the dogs of war on Syria. It was the first such
refusal since 1782 when, incidentally, Parliament voted
down further war against the rebellious American colonies.
It will be a welcome sign of a dawning realization
that the U.S. Empire has exhausted itself financially and
in folly if the House refuses to pass Obama’s Syrian
But if it does approve another front in
the U.S. Mideast war, buy gold with both hands.