1) Obama Already Botched The Mission
One school of thought among Republicans is that Obama has already let Syria disintegrate into disaster, and it's unclear if U.S. intervention can accomplish much now. This view appears most popular among 2016 presidential hopefuls. It's politically expedient because it allows them simultaneously to attack Obama while refraining from officially siding with either of the GOP's competing hawkish and isolationist camps.
"The President has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a statement Tuesday. "He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America's security. I want to hear his case to Congress and to the American people."
He wasn't the only GOP presidential aspirant arguing that Obama has blown it.
"The choice was made to lead from behind, to watch as this thing unfolded," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Tuesday at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "Yes, this is a horrible incident where a thousand people died. But before this incident, 100,000 people died. ... This is a reminder of what happens when we ignore the world -- when we look inward and ignore these problems."
2) Obama Isn't Going Far Enough
Some Republicans claim Obama is waging a half-hearted battle by opposing U.S. boots on the ground and stopping short of calling for regime change. Certain foreign policy hawks, like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), want Obama to launch a broader war but have left little room to oppose a limited intervention. But others are testing those waters and are flirting with the theory that it may not be worth supporting a mission unless it topples Assad.
"I'm trying to reconcile why if we are going to go in there militarily, if we are going to strike, why not try to do some kind of knockout punch?" Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said at the Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday. "Is it because we have no faith that there is nobody on the ground, the military rebels -- is it not ready to change, is that the problem?"
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) swiped Obama on the White House lawn after meeting with him Monday, insisting that "the purpose of the military action in Syria should not be to help the president save face. It should not be merely cosmetic." He warned that "the Iranians are marching toward a nuclear weapon" and that "if we're indifferent, if we respond poorly to Assad, I think that gives a green light to the Iranians that we as Americans are really not serious about stopping their nuclear program, which would be a game-changer for the world."
3) Obama Can't Be Trusted To Carry It Out
Ultraconservative lawmakers are flirting with the theory that Obama cannot be trusted to carry out the Syria mission. The argument was made Tuesday by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) on Twitter, who invoked Benghazi.
The "we don't trust Obama" mode of thought is strong among Republicans and has served as red meat for the GOP base on a host of issues. And while most junior Republicans in the House have yet to weigh in, this viewpoint is apparently shaping up to sway numerous GOP lawmakers on the Syria authorization vote.
"There's no doubt the president has been extremely reluctant to take action in Syria," reports Byron York of the conservative Washington Examiner. "He also showed terrible judgment by painting himself into a corner with his 2012 'red line' comments on chemical weapons. For those reasons, and more, some Republicans will argue that they simply cannot entrust special warmaking powers to a president who they believe is not competent to use them."