I supported the decision to go to war with Afghanistan after our nation was attacked on 9/11. Colin Powell wrote in his autobiography: “War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose that our people understand and support.” I believe that he had it right. America should only go to war to win.
War should occur only when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened. I don’t think the situation in Syria passes that test. Even the State Department argues that “there’s no military solution here that’s good for the Syrian people, and that the best path forward is a political solution.”
The U.S. should not fight a war to save face. I will not vote to send young men and women to sacrifice life and limb for stalemate. I will not vote to send our nation’s best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory. If American interests are at stake, then our goal should not be stalemate.
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If American interests are at stake, then it is incumbent upon those advocating for military action to convince Congress and the American people of that threat. Too often, the debate begins and ends with an assertion that our national interest is at stake without any evidence of that assertion. The burden of proof lies with those who wish to engage in war.
Bashar Assad is clearly not an American ally. But does his ouster encourage stability in the Middle East, or would his ouster actually encourage instability?
Are the Islamic rebels our allies? Will they defend American interests? Will they acknowledge Israel’s right to exist? Will they impose Shari‘a? Will they tolerate Christians, or will they pillage and destroy ancient Christian churches and people?
The President and his Administration have not provided good answers to any of these questions. Those who seek military action have an obligation to publicly address these concerns before dragging our soldiers into another Middle Eastern war. Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now.
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In 2007, then Senator Obama stated that no President should unilaterally go to war without congressional authority unless there is an actual or imminent threat to our nation. James Madison argued this same position. Our Founding Fathers understood that the Executive Branch was the most prone to war. That is the constitutional position.
President Obama’s new position, though, is that while he requests congressional input, he doesn’t necessarily need Congress’s approval. The President and his Administration view this vote as a courtesy vote. Even though only 9% of the American population supports this intervention, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, and even if Congress votes against it, the President still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in another country’s civil war.
But Mr. President, that is not how our Constitution works.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress — and Congress alone — the power to declare war. If Congress does not approve this military action, the President must abide by that decision.
There is no debate more significant for a legislator than the decision to engage in war. We must hold our leaders accountable.