The news of the week: It begins with the horrible news out of Syria that the leader of that country gassed his own people with Sarin, a chemical weapon, and this included gassing and killing children. Assad has been a dictator for a long time, and as the Syrian Civil War has played out, it has cost the lives of over 100,000 people. That itself is a tragedy.
So our President declared he needed to act, he wanted a coalition of countries to go together and punish the Syrian government for what they have done. Sounds reasonable, right? And it would be, except for one thing. The country and the world, is war-weary. There have been conflicts and battle and terror basically non-stop since 9/11/01. And so countries have backed out, most notably the Brits, who declared in their Parliament that they would not take military action. So President Obama says he will go it alone, and he believes he has authority to act without Congressional approval. I can see where he thinks that, based on previous Presidents asserting their right over the military. But Congress started to talk. And talk. And talk. Demanding the President is required to seek out Congress for approval to use military force if the situation does not involve a direct imminent threat to the United States. So in an about face, the President holds a press conference where he declares he can do it if he wants to, but he will seek Congressional approval to “make us stronger”. It’s a nice phrase, but why seek it out at all? He didn’t speak of the Constitution, which is where the power is given to Congress. He spoke of a feeling. Odd phrase.
So because of this, there has been an interesting reaction. The Democratic talking points coming from the left, consists of David Axelrod and the rest saying “Congress is now the dog that has caught the car…”. They are gleeful that Congress has to “back up” its words towards the President. However, in my mind, this is not a Republican vs. Democrat debate. There are plenty of Democrats who are nervous about going to war again. And there are plenty of Republicans who are nervous as well. The other day I was watching a commentator on the left eviscerate someone from the GOP for saying he may oppose this, but he supported the war in Iraq. And I thought about this and decided, maybe he’s right. Or, perhaps that individual learned his lesson last time. Perhaps, he changed his mind and realizes the heavy toll two wars have played on our country. In politics, everyone is so jaded and no one is ever allowed to make a mistake. I find that to be a mistake in general and an unreasonable standard we hold politicians towards. If they change their minds frequently that’s one thing. But a measured change of opinion after being presented with mountains of evidence may simply be the right thing to do.
I have spoke freely to my friends and on my blogs about the fact that I as a citizen supported the initial military action after 9/11. Who didn’t? It was very few and far between honestly who did not(congress gave military authorization then too, from both sides of the aisle). But as the wars drudged on, as more and more soldiers came home wounded or dead, I began to feel differently. If we were going to completely conquer a country, why were our men and women being killed daily, for what purpose did this serve? So I vowed to never again “support war” blindly. There may be times in the future where intervening in a conflict is the right thing to do for our country. But I won’t take it lightly. And I believe there are many on both sides of the political aisle who are taking the role of Congress and the government more seriously when it comes to war. Remember, the Senate is controlled by the Democrats and the Republicans control the House, which is why I find the leftist gloating all the more strange. Congress and Congress alone should authorize military action, because the more and more power we give the Executive Branch, the less voice the people have. In many ways, the Congressional votes will be bipartisan. There will be many from both parties that support the resolution and many who oppose. It will truly be a bipartisan war.
Lots of people are claiming that if someone isn’t “for” this military action then they are “isolationists”. That is ridiculous. Because you don’t want to authorize military action towards a country that doesn’t currently hold a threat to us doesn’t make you an isolationist. It makes you cognizant of the fact that we can’t be the world’s policeman, we can’t solve every problem, and we can’t bully our way into every conflict. What Assad did was abhorrent. The world should find a way to punish him. Perhaps that way is the US providing military strikes and going it alone. Perhaps not. But we have to have an honest debate and way to do that is through Congress. And if Congress rejects it, then the President should go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan, because military strikes should be off the table. The President is not the absolute arbitrator of power, whether he or she is democrat or republican.