Jim Clark: America’s role in Syria
The Syrian crisis has made hawks out of doves and doves out of hawks. Iraq War critic Barack Obama now finds himself in the same position as George Bush ten years ago, seeking domestic and international political support for the proposition that he should be able to lob missiles into a defiant Middle East country.
In a turnabout France, which opposed Bush’s attack plan, supports Obama’s and Britain, which supported Bush’s plan opposes Obama’s. As of press time the Rasmussen poll reports that only 37 percent of Americans support an attack on Syria. That sentiment is reflected in the attitudes in Congress where, according to the Washington Post, 23 senators (including Harry Reid, D-Nev.) support a resolution for military action, 25 (including Dean Heller, R-Nev.) are undecided and 25 oppose.
In the House, 39 members support military action, 165 (including Mark Amodei R-Nev.; Steven Horsford, D-Nev.; and Dina Titus D-Nev.) are undecided, and 223 (including Joe Heck R-Nev.) are opposed. Support and opposition totally cross party lines, with 62 House Democrats among those opposed.
Congressman Heck’s position is interesting. A Republican, he has historically been a hawk. He is a medical doctor who volunteered for active duty with the US Army in Iraq where he got first hand experience and knowledge about Middle East war. Last week his office issued a statement: “I do not take the commitment of US forces lightly, especially when there is no identifiable vital national security interest. I have never believed our military force should be used to deliver a shot across the bow unless we are willing to then sink the ship if the warning shot is unheeded.”
Elsewhere in the nation, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein have joined Republicans John McCain and Lindsay Graham in supporting a limited attack, while moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin has joined former GOP Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan opposing it. Fox News Constitutionalist Judge Andrew Napolitano has concluded that an attack on Syria by the United States would be a “war crime” in violation of international law and the US Constitution. “You can use military force to attack somebody that has attacked (or is about to attack) you, or you can use military force to … aid an ally that has been attacked … or when authorized by the United Nations,” the judge stated. “None of those conditions apply in Syria,” he concluded.
If an attack occurs no one is sure what kind of response by Russia and Iran it would trigger. And beyond the specter of an attack bringing about a multi-nation war legislators are looking warily to the 2014 mid term elections. Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary partly because he had opposed the Iraq invasion while she voted for it in 2002.
For him to have come full circle may hurt Democratic candidates who out of loyalty support his request. Moreover many House Democrats won their seats in 2006 and 2008 by blaming George Bush for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Democrats could also face primary challenges in liberal districts if they support the measure. Incumbent Democratic senators facing reelection in at least three states, Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas, are on tenterhooks over this issue.
Liberal MoveOn.org is strongly lobbying Democrats to oppose attack authority while the American Israel Public Affairs Committee with strong ties to Democrats is pressing lawmakers to approve the measure.
By the time this is published the Senate will have taken action, probably approval by a slight majority; action in the House will be about two weeks away where it faces an uphill battle.
As the old Chinese curse goes: “May you live in interesting times.” This is one of them.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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