Bend political science professor talks politics of Syria

President 'has to act very carefully and very slowly'

POSTED: 6:15 PM PDT September 11, 2013    UPDATED: 6:31 PM PDT September 11, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

In the debate over going to war, there are not just questions about what powers the president has, but how much of the debate is for political gains.

The idea of of sending troops or even getting involved in Syria is not popular with the American people. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows 58 percent of Americans want their member of Congress to vote against a resolution authorizing military action in Syria.

Tuesday night, President Obama laid out his approach to dealing with chemical weapons used in Syria.

"Technically, as commander and chief he could commit American troops to boots on the ground, as the saying has it," OSU-Cascades political science Professor James Foster said Wednesday.

Foster said if the president does not get the backing from Congress or the American people, it could be bad for the Democratic Party.

"He could take that action but he goes way out on a limb," Foster said, "especially in 2013, when you have a very war-weary public."

Foster compared the president to the Giant in "Gulliver's Travels." He says in 2010, the Democrats saw political losses, so now the president walks a fine line politically.

"He is sort of a helpless, some would say hapless, giant who has technically significantly constitutional authority as commander in chief," Foster said. "But politically, he has to act very carefully and very slowly."

As the debates continue and the U.S. watches Syria, Foster says he'll be teaching with examples this fall, like how the Lilliputians in "Gulliver's Travels" hold the power.

"As the Constitution begins, "We the People" are the people who make the decisions in this country, and need to make them in a thoughtful and considerate manner," Foster said.

OSU-Cascades doesn't start classes until Sept. 30th, but Obama and Syria, as well as predecessor George W. Bush and Iraq, will likely be a part of the continuing discussion.