The debate over whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria’s civil war, particularly after two chemical weapons attacks, is exposing splits in both parties. According to one poll, only 25% of respondents support U.S. airstrikes in Syria, while just 11% support U.S. troops being sent there. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 60% of Americans opposing any involvement in the Syrian civil war, with only 9% supporting military intervention.
In 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama run on a fiercely anti-Iraq War platform. A big reason he was able to win the nomination was because both of his opponents, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and North Carolina Senator Jonathan Edwards, had voted for the Iraq War. Obama promised not to repeat President Bush’s mistakes. However, he is not only walking in Bush’s footsteps now, but is exceeding whatever mistakes Bush made.
The United States, while it took the lead role in the invasion of Iraq, did so with a coalition of over thirty nations. A coalition in Syria might be considerably smaller, especially as America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom, voted on Thursday in opposition to any military involvement, a vote that British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to uphold.
President Bush also got Congressional approval for the Iraq War, albeit not a formal declaration of war. Forty percent of Democrats in the U.S. House, and fifty-eight percent of Democratic Senators voted for the Iraq War. Democrats who voted for the war included Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, John Kerry, and Jonathan Edwards. President Obama has yet to ask Congress for approval to use U.S. forces in Syria, much less a formal declaration of war. Still, one wonders why he hasn’t even sought Congressional approval, as some Republicans, such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have been outspoken in their support for U.S. intervention in Syria.
Many Americans are weary of the United States’ interventionist policies. The United States aided Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s invasion of that country, and in doing so armed the Taliban, who we are now fighting. The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, a country that is still marred by insurrection. President Obama ordered the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistani territory, a decision that inflamed opinions in that country and led them to elect a fiercely anti-American to the Presidency. President Obama chose to support the protests in Egypt, which led to the Muslim Brotherhood winning control of the Parliament and the Presidency, and then continued to give that country military aid following a coup, and the beginnings of Egypt’s own civil war. The President also supported the Libyan rebels, and a few months later the U.S. ambassador to Libya would be assassinated in Benghazi on the 11-year anniversary of 9/11. Now we’re poised to begin conducting military operations in civil war-torn Syria. At some point, someone has to realize that U.S. military intervention isn’t bringing peace or stability to any of these countries. For every problem we try to solve, we create eight new ones.
In 2007, then-Senator Obama said, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." He added, "As commander-in-chief, the president does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."
How, then, does Syria pose an imminent threat to the United States? How would U.S. intervention in Syria be out of self-defense? Has Syria invaded us or bombed us? Has the Syrian leader threatened to launch a chemical attack against the United States? Why is the President not petitioning Congress for authorization to use military force against Syria? Even if he chooses not to bomb that country, at least he’d have approval to do so. There could only be two reasons for his refusal to get Congressional approval – because he knows he won’t get it, or because he doesn’t care.
The irony of all of this is that President Obama didn’t run against Senator John McCain, as much as he ran against President Bush. Why then does his foreign policy seem more like Bush on steroids? More than that, President Obama is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. This is a President who campaigned against torture and waterboarding, then went on to increase drone strikes, including against American citizens. This is a President who campaigned against an ‘illegal’ war in Iraq, in which President Bush had Congressional approval, then turned around and intervened in Libya without Congressional approval, and is now about to do the same in Syria.
Either way, that 2007-2008 Barack Obama would be furious at the policies of the 2013 Barack Obama. The anti-war Democrats who voted for him would be betrayed by his policies as President. And where are all those anti-war protesters who stood on street corners holding, “No War” signs?