By Robert Schlesinger |
Congress returns to Washington this week and the most pressing issue on its agenda is President Obama's request to authorize strikes against Syria. Though Obama doesn't believe he needs Congress' okay to move forward with military action against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, he said that he is asking Congress to vote anyway, because, "I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people."
President Obama plans to make the case for military action in a public address tonight. In London this week, Secretary of State John Kerry pushed for support by claiming that any strike against Syria would be "unbelievably small, limited," adding, "We're not talking about war, we're not going to war."
However, prospects for Congress actually giving Obama the go-ahead are unclear. According to a whip count by RealClearDefense, a slight plurality in the Senate currently favors taking action against Syria, the House is leaning decidedly against voting to approve Obama's request. The fact that the leaders of both parties have endorsed striking Syria has not, so far, pulled much of the House along.
The public, according to polls, is also skeptical of military action . According to Gallup, a majority of Americans oppose a strike, while just more than one-third are in support. "It's conceivable that at the end of the day I don't persuade a majority of the American people that it's the right thing to do," Obama admitted last week.
But proponents of military action claim that allowing the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons, as it has allegedly done, free of repercussions sets a dangerous precedent. Bruce Pavel, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, wrote in U.S. News that, "Potential military adversaries such as North Korea and Iran no doubt are emboldened, seeing a pusillanimous U.S. president hemmed in by domestic politics, reduced budgets and a lack of resolve to wield American power when needed." Michael P. Noonan, the Director of the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, added, "It is a chimera to think that we can disengage or walk away from areas like the Middle East and pay no consequences."
So should Congress vote to strike Syria? The Debate Club asks a bipartisan group of lawmakers to weigh in:
Rand Paul Republican Senator from Kentucky
Barbara Lee Democratic Representative from Florida
Bill Nelson Democratic Senator from Florida
James Inhofe Republican Senator from Oklahoma