Debate Club

Barbara Lee: Use Forceful Diplomacy in Syria, Not Military Force

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As Congress reconvenes this week, one issue is at the forefront of our minds: Syria. The world community has compelling evidence that the Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people. This is deplorable and unacceptable, and he and others responsible must be held accountable under the law; we must respond. But, I reject the view that a military response is the only response.

Last week, 60 House members joined me in a letter calling for the president to submit this matter for Congressional debate. Congress has the constitutional authority to take the nation to war, and I commend President Obama for heeding that and other calls to abide by the Constitution's separation of powers. We will have a robust and serious debate about any response and we will weigh the probable and dangerous consequences of a military strike.

Military action, including targetted bombing, risks losing more lives and increasing the bloodshed. It could undermine our national security, and that of close allies, by triggering broad retaliation and escalation of the conflict in the region. The danger of the violence escalating in Syria and in the region is high; we cannot put out a fire by adding gasoline to the flames.

Strikes against Syrian military targets not only have the risk of direct civilian casualties, sometimes in war callously called "collateral damage," but will not deter the Assad regime in its assault against its own people. Many experts agree that these strikes would do more harm than good and could lead the U.S. deeper and deeper into the complex Syrian civil war, which 60 percent of Americans oppose. The path forward is clear: we must support forceful diplomacy, not military force.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Syria.]

We have alternatives, and while these alternatives may not offer an easy solution or a "silver bullet," they ultimately may prove more effective in addressing this issue and, importantly, in sending a clear signal that leaders may not act against international law with impunity. We've got to engage in forceful diplomacy to mobilize the community of nations to demand legal action against Syrian leaders for their horrific violation of international law. 

There are obstacles, but the perceived difficulties of non-military options should not mean that the United States and the international community should abandon hope of bringing perpetrators to justice or pressuring the Assad regime and all actors to accept a negotiated political solution. Not only is it the right thing to do, but the American people are demanding it. 

Barbara Lee

About Barbara Lee Democratic Representative from Florida

Obama, Barack

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