Congress is supposed to be the branch of government closest to the people. If so, it will listen to the voices of war-weary Americans when it reconvenes and reject President Obama's plan to jump into another conflict halfway around the globe with no clear objectives and no compelling national security interest at stake.
Congress should say no, loudly and clearly, to the president's request for authorization of military strikes against Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons.
During the pressure of the 2012 campaign, Obama made rash and amateurish statements about those weapons being a "red line" for the United States, but Congress is not obliged to bail him out. Nor must Congress pretend that gassing civilians, as horrifying as that is, is any more despicable than bombing them by the thousands or crushing them with tanks.
Earlier this week Sen. Michael Bennet, who leans toward supporting military action, told The Denver Post's editorial board, "I don't think there's any conceivable way that Syria ends well." We think Bennet's analysis of Syria's prospects is essentially correct. So why would the U.S. want to intervene in a struggle in which the eventual outcome is so bleak?
The continued rule of Bashar Assad would be a tragic fate for Syria. But so would any outcome that empowered anti-Western jihadists, or led to another civil war between jihadists and more moderate rebel factions. The United States wasn't able to control ideological and ethnic hatreds in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it won't be able to control them in Syria, either.
The administration has said the strikes would be limited and not involve ground troops. But as The New York Times (has) reported ..., "many analysts believe that a cosmetic attack would help rejuvenate Mr. Assad's fortunes [within his country], at least temporarily."
Yet if the attacks are more than cosmetic and meant to shape the war, they could easily escalate beyond what is contemplated today.
When Obama announced his decision to go to Congress, he suggested the purpose was to target Syria's chemical weapons capability and deter Assad. The White House has since been telling lawmakers the goal also includes changing the momentum in the Syrian war, according to The Times.
So what exactly is the goal?
U.S. national security is not at risk because Syria used chemical weapons, despite Secretary of State John Kerry's strained attempts to make that case. Nor is this nation's future ability to punish any country -- Iran or North Korea, for example -- that does threaten our security.
President Obama came into office in 2009 evidently believing Assad could be (a) constructive player in the Middle East. He waited months after Assad began a bloody crackdown of a popular uprising before calling for him to step down. And the administration's policy has been reactive ever since.
Now, with Syria in chaos, Islamists on the rise and no good outcome in sight, Obama says it's time to fire up the bombers.
No thanks, Mr. President.
--The Denver Post, Sept. 6