The Coming Debate in Congress Over Going to War in Syria

by lizard

What kind of authorization will president Obama be asking Congress for in regards to Syria? If this draft language is any indication, Obama will be asking for a resolution to allow for a wide range of contingencies.

Moon of Alabama has a post up titled Obama’s Carte Blanche War Resolution, where some specific language is highlighted and interpreted:

“as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” ==> no limits apply
“in connection with” ==> as everything is connected …
“or deter the use or proliferation” ==> by whatever means
“to .. other state .. actors” ==> target Iran
“or components of or materials used” ==> from corrugated steel to petroleum products
“protect … or its allies and partners” ==> the Zionists
“against the threats posed” ==> includes non-use but assumed existence of such weapons

We are in very dangerous territory here. Some people think Obama secretly doesn’t want to fight this war, and is therefore using an atrophied Congress to get him out of the “Red-line” trap he set for himself.

A more likely interpretation, backed by the draft language of this resolution, is that Obama knows Syria is not Libya, not only in its ability to respond to a unilateral attack from the United States, but also in its ability to compel involvement from its regional supporters, Iran and Russia. Getting Congress to sign off on war plans will insulate Obama when the football-watching masses realize WWIII just went hot.

That is not hyperbole. Thanks to our decade of war in the Middle East, the region is an unmitigated disaster. Whatever limits the president will cite in the upcoming “debate” about a few punitive strikes is nothing but dangerous wishful thinking totally unmoored from reality.

The initial branding for this war with Syria was the humanitarian intervention label used to off Libya’s tyrant, and that is the justification the UK tried to use before Cameron got rebuffed by parliament. This Foreign Policy article describes why whatever happens in Syria will NOT be a humanitarian intervention under the R2P doctrine:

In its failed bid to convince Parliament to support airstrikes against Syria, the British government issued a statement on Thursday, Aug. 29, outlining its legal justification for military action. In doing so, it claimed that its position is consistent with an emerging international norm of “humanitarian intervention.” Indeed such a norm, while not yet codified in international law, has begun to take shape in recent decades, evidenced in both international documents and the practice and rhetoric of governments. Britain’s legal position, however, inadequately reflects these international understandings about the “responsibility to protect.” Although it’s now largely moot, if the British position had been authorized by Parliament, it would have risked dangerously undercutting this emerging and still fragile norm, while simultaneously threatening the U.N. Charter regime. It is thus noteworthy that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chose not to mention “humanitarian intervention” in his remarks on Friday, focusing instead on the need to enforce a taboo against chemical weapons. This makes sense, since the military campaign being proposed would not meet the standards by which humanitarian interventions are judged.

Another example that undermines using R2P as a justification for war is the attempt by the US to derail the UN investigation:

After initially insisting that Syria give United Nations investigators unimpeded access to the site of an alleged nerve gas attack, the administration of President Barack Obama reversed its position on Sunday and tried unsuccessfully to get the U.N. to call off its investigation.

The administration’s reversal, which came within hours of the deal reached between Syria and the U.N., was reported by the Wall Street Journal Monday and effectively confirmed by a State Department spokesperson later that day.

In his press appearance Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry, who intervened with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to call off the investigation, dismissed the U.N. investigation as coming too late to obtain valid evidence on the attack that Syrian opposition sources claimed killed as many 1,300 people.

The sudden reversal and overt hostility toward the U.N. investigation, which coincides with indications that the administration is planning a major military strike against Syria in the coming days, suggests that the administration sees the U.N. as hindering its plans for an attack.

Surprisingly, Ban Ki Moon displayed evidence of still possessing a spine, and decided to use it despite pressure from Kerry’s State Department.

Where this all goes, no one can really say. Congress will get a chance to sign off on another war, and in our current bizarro world, we are more likely to hear arguments against intervention from the anti-intervention right than from servile Democrats.

Locally, Steve Daines is out front, urging caution, and stating he won’t vote for war unless our national security is at risk. Here’s his statement:

“I am glad to see the President agreeing to my request—and the demands of the American people—for Congressional approval before any potential military action in Syria. I will closely scrutinize intelligence suggesting that the Syrian regime has unleashed weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians. Like many Montanans I’ve spoken to, however, I do not want to put our country center stage into a conflict where the objective isn’t clear, the outcome is uncertain and American lives are in jeopardy. I will not support the use of military force unless I’m convinced that our national security is at risk and the President’s military strategy will successfully secure our interests.”

Jon Tester is also cautious about involving the US in Syria, according to this local NBC report:

We caught up with Senator Jon Tester, Thursday, and asked him if he’d vote for a tailored response.

He told us it depends on what that tailored response is.

Tester explains he hopes the president involves congress in the decision even though he has the authority to act alone.

Tester tells us it’s a risky move and we have to be very careful.

What’s more, he says we’re trying to get the budget and deficit under control and a response wouldn’t help and it would use U.S. resources.

“The Middle East has been a pretty crazy place for the past many years and it seems like the more we get involved, the more crazy it gets so, I would really need a lot more info before I could say “yes” or “no” but I’m probably inclined to say “no” unless it can be really justified and it is really necessary and it’s really going to do this country some good,” explains Tester.

I added the emphasis that Tester thinks Obama has the authority to act alone. The constitution says otherwise, but who uses that dusty old document anymore?

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