Both House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are calling it a free vote. A vote of conscience. Neither of the leaders of the U.S. House is going to demand that the members of their respective parties line up with them to vote in favor of President Obama's request to authorize military action against the criminal regime that rules Syria.
And that is more than a cynical reflection of the fact that, in today's hyper-ideological and fractured politics, neither leader really has the muscle to deliver either party's vote. It is a rational understanding that the question of what to do about the Assad regime in Syria, widely believed to have used chemical weapons weapons forbidden by decency, tradition and international treaty against civilian populations in its own country, is a maddeningly difficult one, a textbook example of damned if you do and damned if you don't.
Don't, and Assad won't be the only tinhorn despot who figures out that there are no limits to the violence they can unleash on their own people. Nothing the so-called civilized world can or will do to prevent, or even discourage, such behavior, or worse, in the future.