War Drums: A (Not So) Happy Hour at the White House

President Barack Obama walks to the West Wing recently at the White House. On Thursday evening, the White House will host lawmakers -- in person and via teleconference -- to brief them on military plans for Syria. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Six o’clock. It’s the sweet spot of happy hour for Washington’s office-dwelling types. On Thursday evening, the White House is hosting its own happy hour — kind of. And the guest list is elite. In fact, it’s an invitation-only affair for select members of Congress to hear about military options for Syria.

Congressional sources tell Defense News that at 6 p.m. EST, senior White House officials will brief the leaders of key House and Senate panels — like the Armed Services committees — and other congressional heavyweights on plans for limited military strikes on Assad regime targets.

Obama administration officials can expect plenty of pointed questions, from Republicans and Democrats alike.

GOP members, partly sensing an opportunity to score political points, are questioning whether Obama has the Constitutional power to fire cruise missiles without Congress’ prior approval. Democrats are skeptical, too, warning about unintended consequences in an always-chaotic Middle East and the potential for the U.S. to be dragged into another ground war there.

Members of both parties say the White House’s goals are not narrowly enough defined, and say becoming entangled in Syria’s messy civil war is not a core U.S. national security matter.

And while the cost of a few days of Tomahawk missile strikes has not garnered much attention, it’s likely lawmakers will ask about that, too. Especially since even a limited operation likely would cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

No, this happy hour won’t resemble your office’s last post-work drinks outing at all.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett