“War should only occur when America is attacked, when it is threatened or when American interests are attacked or threatened,” writes Paul. “I don’t think the situation in Syria passes that test.”
Ironically, President Obama and members of his administration have not yet attempted to argue that the situation in Syria passes any such test.
To date, President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and others attempting to goad the United States into war action have not tried to make the case that the United States or its allies are being threatened by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Rather, the Syria-hawks are pushing for American intervention on the sole basis that the ruling parties in Syria need to be punished for acts of chemical violence against their own people.
President Obama is trying to gain national and international support for action in Syria on the assumption that America, with or without the assistance of allies, is responsible for dealing punitive military assaults to nations that have broken international mores of warfare.
Despite the Obama administration’s repeated attempts to stir war fever, strong opposition to such action in Syria has been voiced by the international community, the American people and many in Congress.
And while many members of Congress have questioned how a U.S. air or land strike in Syria would in any way benefit the American people, Senator Paul has poised himself to be perhaps the most prominent voice of opposition while Obama argues his case in the coming weeks.
With his viewpoint essay in TIME, Paul articulates the same, perhaps obvious objection to Syria intervention that other lawmakers have expressed – the fact that Obama and his teammates have not demonstrated how the vagaries of a foreign civil war demand American military action.
However, Paul has taken his objections to the next level, picking a moral and constitutional fight with the President’s administration that is sure to take center stage as Congress readies to vote on a Syrian resolution in the next week or two.
In addition to voicing his objections about the motivations for getting America involved in Syria, Paul has also made it a point to highlight the view that President Obama is ignoring basic constitutional principles by suggesting that he can and will move forward with a plan regardless of how Congress votes.
“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,” Paul writes in TIME.
“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 (upcoming resolution) vote as a courtesy vote. 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.
“Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 (of the Constitution) 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.”
Earlier in the week, Paul made the same argument to Secretary of State Kerry during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Syria.
Kerry asserted President Obama would be in keeping with the Constitution if he decided to go ahead with military action in Syria even if it is voted down by Congress. Senator Paul vocally disagreed.
“This power (to authorize war) is a congressional power and not an executive power,” Paul told Kerry. “If we do not say that the Constitution applies, if we do not say that we will explicitly abide by this vote, you’re making a joke of us. You’re making us into theater. And so we play constitutional theater for the president.”
In addition to the verbal lashings Paul has been dealing to those arguing that war in Syria can be authorized by executive whim, the senator also introduced an amendment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would make any congressional vote binding. The amendment would mean that the president can absolutely not initiate military action in Syria unless approved to do so by Congress.
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 14-4.
Although recent polls have shown that the majority of Americans do not want to involve our military in Syria, and despite the fact that many in Congress may vote against such action, it remains likely that the president will pursue a military objective in Syria regardless of public opinion or congressional dissent.
And while the president’s pleas for the approval of Congress and the public at large over the coming weeks may indeed prove to be simply theater leading up to predetermined action in Syria, it seems assured that Rand Paul will continue to play a loud and dissenting voice during that time.