By Robert Schlesinger |
Intervention in Syria is largely unpopular among Americans. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reports that only 9 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. should intervene. Understandably, Americans are not eager to be plunged into another questionable or misguided war.
So I was encouraged when I learned that President Obama had decided to seek authorization from Congress before taking military action against Syria. Yet, before I could even applaud him for that decision, I heard that President Obama still might attack Syria even if Congress rejected his request. I felt as if he was treating us as a joke and I have no interest in being part of this administration's political theater. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and I intend to keep it. I expect the same of the President of the United States, no matter which party he belongs to.
The Founders' rightly recognized that the power to make war should not be in one person's hands, particularly the president's. James Madison wrote: "The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature."
The president has a responsibility to the people and to their elected representatives to abide by the constitutional restraints placed on his office. We have this system of checks and balances in place so that no branch of government would ever be powerful enough to do as it pleased arbitrarily against the rule of law or will of the people as expressed by Congress.
War should be the last resort. War should only occur when America is attacked, threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened. I don't think the situation in Syria passes that test.
Of course the sight of civilian suffering and death is heart-wrenching and no one disputes that Bashar Assad is a vile dictator. However, what do we know about the rebel forces we would be arming? It is safely assumed that these forces are allied with al-Qaida and their acts of brutality have been widely reported. We must be wary that in our rush to "do something" we do not make an already bad situation worse. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.
President Obama used to understand the weightiness of war. In 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama argued to a Boston Globe reporter that the president lacked the authority to unilaterally authorize military attack without an "actual or imminent threat to the nation." At that time, many Democrats were worried that President Bush would initiate conflict with Iran. These situations are similar in nature when it comes to a constitutional analysis.
It was President Obama who called for Assad's ouster before it was clear he could be ousted and who set a "red line" he didn't think Assad would cross. Should his strategic blunder now subject the American people to another endless war?
Saving this administration's "face" is not a good enough reason to go to war.
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