09/04/2013 06:49 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2013

How the War Narrative Has Trapped Congress

Five years ago then-candidate Barack Obama distanced himself from other presidential contenders with his early opposition to the Iraq War. The fact that he had never actually cast a vote on the authorization for war didn't matter -- his main contenders (both in the United States Senate in 2002) had. And as the popularity of the war tanked the Obama campaign was going to remind every voter of this fact. The narrative was simple: other candidates = for an unpopular war. Candidate Obama = against.

Five years later, the now President Obama has said he wants the Congress to weigh in on the use of military force in Syria. In other words, the president is making members of Congress face a new war narrative -- and one that could have significant implications in the 2016 presidential elections. Either you cast a vote to stand idly by while chemical weapons were used to kill more than 400 children while simultaneously sending a statement to North Korea, Iran and others about our nation's apparent non-opinion on such issues. Or you cast a vote for military action, during a time of great national war fatigue, in an area that many students can't find on a map, with an undefined goal and an undefined outcome that includes the potential of regional destabilization.

Interestingly, one could argue the latter vote would be easier to cast had there not have been the history of a failed war narrative during Iraq (remember the weapons of mass destruction?) and the congressional votes that were held over the heads of those that cast them six years later as they ran for president. The fear of falling victim to this narrative might just cause some presidential aspirants in Congress to pause -- and potentially lead the vote against authorization. After all, no matter which way Congress votes on this they will be viewed on the wrong side of history by many -- and that is a trap that many in Congress may not be able to get out of.