In a post for the blog Lawfare on Sunday, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, who teaches national security law and is an expert in presidential power, wrote that the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Syria is so broad that it could be interpreted as authorizing “boots on the ground.”
As the AUMF that's been proposed by Congress authorizes the president “to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate,” this could “include authorization for ground troops, should the President decide they were 'necessary and appropriate,'" writes Goldsmith. "And yes, if history is any guide, Congress can authorize the President to use force in a limited fashion with limited means (i.e. just the Navy, or just the Air Force).”
The AUMF is also so broad, according to Goldsmith, that it could be used to justify attacks on targets besides Syria.
“The proposed AUMF focuses on Syrian WMD but is otherwise very broad,” writes Goldsmith. “It authorizes the President to use any element of the U.S. Armed Forces and any method of force. It does not contain specific limits on targets – either in terms of the identity of the targets (e.g. the Syrian government, Syrian rebels, Hezbollah, Iran) or the geography of the targets. Its main limit comes on the purposes for which force can be used.”
If any country or group can be connected somehow to the Syrian government's use of WMDs, it becomes a target for attack under the AUMF, Goldsmith writes.
“[A]s long as the President determines that Iran or Hezbollah has a (mere) a connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the U.S. or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. Again, very easy to imagine.”
The Obama administration has denied that ground forces will be used, maintaining that an attack on Syria would be "limited."
While Obama has said that he'll seek Congressional authorization before a potential attack on Syria, members of his administration have implied that, regardless of the vote, the president will order a strike on Syria anyway as a means of punishing the Bashar al-Assad regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack last month.
Many in the military, however, have expressed opposition to intervention in the civil war, mainly due to the presence of al Qaeda and radical Islamic groups among the rebels.
Members of all branches of the military have begun posting images of themselves with cards in front of their faces with written messages expressing their opposition to intervention.
“I DIDN'T JOIN THE ARMY TO FIGHT FOR AL QAEDA IN A SYRIAN CIVIL WAR,” reads one soldier's message.
“Obama, I will not deploy to fight for your Al-Qaeda rebels in Syria. WAKE UP PEOPLE,” reads another soldier's card.
Service members have expressed opposition to intervention in Syria in other ways.
“I've been hearing a lot from members of our Armed Forces,” Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash tweeted over the weekend. “The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria.”
He also retweeted messages from veterans proclaiming their opposition.
Military officers, including Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have expressed hesitation to attack Syria due to being unsure of the potential outcome.