Before Going To War Again, Can We Step Back, Calm Down, And Think?
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry made it very plain that the United States intends to enter the Syrian civil war. He didn’t put it that way, of course. He talked vaguely about “consequences” and “our response”, but the responses being discussed in Washington D.C. do not include nonviolent options. Journalists may talk about a “surgical strike”, but there’s a threshold that will be crossed with any attack: Our nation will commit an act of warfare, no matter how surgical we might like to think that act will be.
At times like this, when the White House is eager to go to war, good citizens will think twice about the justifications they’re being given for yet another entry into war in the Middle East.
Exaggeration Doesn’t Help
For one thing, we need to question the Obama Administration’s hyperbole. Secretary Kerry declared yesterday that “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons,” but we all know, if we take a minute to collect our minds, that chemical weapons are not really the world’s most heinous weapons. The world’s most heinous weapons are still contained in the military arsenal of the United States of America, which claims the right to use them, regardless of how nasty they are. The United States of America invented them, and then allowed the technology to produce them to proliferate around the world.
I’m talking, of course, about nuclear weapons. It’s difficult to hear the same nation that dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to get preachy about other nations using weapons of mass destruction. Chemical weapons are awful, and should not be used, but there are worse things.
President Obama Doesn’t Have The Legal Power To Take Us Into War
Another thing for us to keep in mind: The President of the United States does not have the constitutional power to declare war, and has severely restricted power to engage in acts of warfare. The War Powers Resolution specifically states the circumstances in which a President of the United States may engage in an act of warfare without an explicit declaration of war or statutory authorization from Congress: “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”
There is no national emergency. The United States has not been attacked by the Syrian government. The territories, possessions, and armed forces of the United States have not been attacked by the Syrian government.
Republican Congressman Justin Amash has publicly reminded President Obama that he needs to get congressional approval before taking action. Another Republican U.S. Representative, Chris Gibson, has also warned Obama not to go to war against the government of Syria, saying, “rather than being solely concerned with U.N. approval, the President must come first to our own Congress for authorization, and I urge him to do so. Finally, I understand the impulse to take action in Syria. However, I hope the President carefully considers this matter and resists the call from some to use military force in Syria.”
Democrats in Congress seem to be unwilling to challenge their own party’s President on this matter. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has been silent. Does the members of the caucus now regard military action as a “progressive” method of government?
So far, the legitimate concerns of these members of Congress are being ignored. It may well be that the majority in Congress want to bring the United States into war. If so, let Congress come back from its vacation, and pass a resolution declaring war, or give Barack Obama explicit authorization for a punitive military attack against the government of Syria.
The United States of America is supposed to be a nation of laws. Supporters of American involvement in the Syrian civil war may regard the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution as an inconvenience, but when it comes to going to war, the United States of America would benefit from more legal inconvenience, not less.
Show Us The Evidence
Ten years ago, the United States of America went to war in Iraq, on the basis of “evidence” that President Bush said he had, showing that Iraq had dangerous chemical weapons. Now, we’re being asked again to trust that the President has such evidence. This trust has not been earned.
The American people should be able to see for themselves whatever evidence President Obama has seen. We should be able to have a full public debate, based on facts, not assertions.
Listen To The Will Of The People
Most members of Congress seem eager for the U.S. military to start fighting in the civil war in Syria. Most American voters are opposed to American involvement in the war. In an opinion poll taken by Reuters and Ipsos after the release of news of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, only 9 percent of Americans polled said they support U.S. military involvement. Even when a chemical weapons attack was specifically cited by the pollsters, support for U.S. entry into the civil war rose only to 25 percent. 60 percent of those polled expressed outright opposition to American military action.