What should Mr. Obama do?
I think he should abide by whatever the Congress votes.
Senator McCain argues that if he loses the vote, his presidency is ruined. I think that if he goes ahead and takes military action against the vote of the Congress, his presidency will be ruined.
If he yields to the Congress, he might well improve his relations with the Republicans who have been frustrating so much of his agenda.
Here is my naive political calculation. Obama took a risk by deciding to submit the issue to Congress. I applaud his taking that risk. He went against his advisers. I applaud that. Now if he follows the will of the Congress, he will be seen as taking an important step away from the policies that got us into Iraq. The Congress will have to take part of the heat for the decision. He and the Congress will be in it together. He will be seen as a courageous leader who is not beholden to the forces that seem to propel us so easily into military action. He will put the ball into the court of the United Nations, where the rest of the world can put pressure on Russia and China to contribute to a political solution, a solution which everybody sees as the only way out of the present situation.
Suppose the Congress votes to let him go ahead with military action. In that case, he should back off and refrain from military action anyway. Again, for the same reason as above, he will be seen as rejecting the Iraq-style approach that has cost us so much.
If he can go it alone in sending troops, he can go it alone in declining to send troops.
But, to quote an old slogan, I am hopeful but not optimistic. I predict that he will take the military approach, and we will be in a mess for the next ten years.