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The questions accumulate
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In reflecting on another military action in the Middle East, Winston Churchill wrote of the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli of 1915-1916, “The terrible ifs accumulate.”Barack Obama's appeal to Congress for support for his military initiative in Syria prompts a slightly different assertion: The stubborn questions accumulate. Here’s a look:• Having punted the Syria issue up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, could the president still move against Syria without congressional approval?On the one hand, by asking for congressional approval before moving against Syria, the president is doing more than suggesting that support of a majority of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is preferable to unilateral presidential action. He’s saying it’s essential, at least politically.• Why did the president take this congressional gamble anyway?Having taken this gamble in this instance, Obama thus may be obliged to do so in the next instance.That is more important than it may appear, for this precedent could undercut the president's ability to mount a surprise attack against Iran's nuclear facilities later this year or early next year.