Not content to ignore the Constitution on domestic matters alone, President Obama is now planning to act against constitutional safeguards by using military force against Syria. And what is the reason given to justify this flexing of military muscle? The allegation is that Syria’s regime is acting contrary to “humanitarian principles.”
By this standard, probably a third of the world’s governments could incur Obama’s wrath, including Russia, China, Cuba, and maybe half the dictators in sub-Sahara Africa.
As a congressman, I waged legislative battles for humanitarian relief, refugee aid and diplomatic arrangements to help the victims of sectarian violence in south Sudan. But using humanitarian concerns to justify a military intervention in a civil war is not something Congress should approve, and definitely not something the Constitution allows the president to do unilaterally.
Obama has made no claim that Syria poses a threat to the United States. Syria is not offering safe haven to al-Qaida training camps as the Taliban government in Afghanistan did in 2001, nor has Syria invaded its neighboring oil-rich state as Iraq did to Kuwait in August of 1990. It is not threatening to annihilate Israel with nuclear weapons as Iran has been doing for a decade, and it is not systematically persecuting Christians as the government of Myanmar continues to do.
Syria’s “humanitarian crime” is the alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people in the civil war that has been raging now for several years. The use of chemical and biological weapons is outlawed by international treaty, but the Syrian government denies having done so, and at least one United Nations official claims there is evidence the chemical weapons were employed by the rebels, not the Syrian government. Yet, the U.S. State Department is adamant that “Assad did it.”
Susan Rice, Obama’s former U.N. ambassador and newly installed national security adviser, thinks the evidence is sufficient to justify American intervention. So, too, apparently, do scores of Republicans in Congress and the punditocracy. But at least most of the Republicans who favor bombing Syria want Obama to get approval from Congress before launching a military strike.
So, there are really two separate questions involved in the Syria issue. Is it a smart thing to do in terms of U.S. foreign policy interests in the Middle East? And even if you think so, can Obama do it without approval of Congress?
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Obama is asserting the right to order a military strike without any approval from Congress. He is ignoring the fact that the War Powers Act requires such approval be obtained unless the action is in response to an attack on the U.S. or imminent threat of an attack. That is clearly not the case with Syria.
No, the only coherent reason for a military strike against Syria is the alleged violation of humanitarian principles. Yet, the important point is that even if the allegations against Syria are true, without an act of Congress, Obama has no constitutional grounds for a military strike.
The reality is that we have become so used to Obama acting outside the Constitution that it is no longer controversial when he does it. The implicit logic is this: He was not challenged before, so why should he be challenged now, when acting against a universally recognized monster like President Assad of Syria?
My friends, these are the wages of sin and the wages of cowardice.
Having let Obama get away with numerous unconstitutional acts for the past four years, the Congress is unable to stop Obama from taking us into war with a regime that is no threat to this nation – in the name of upholding humanitarian principles. For a moment, forget the politics of it: The sheer hypocrisy of the act stinks to high heaven.
By the standards of the Obama regime, it is all right for Iran to imprison and torture thousands of dissidents, to conduct election fraud and provide funding to terrorist groups across the world from Syria and Lebanon to Venezuela and Libya. Those actions do not violate Susan Rice’s humanitarian sensitivities. But if Syria employs chemical weapons against an insurrection that has already taken over 100,000 lives and created a million refugees, then that must trigger military retaliation by the United States?
There is a principle at stake here beyond the fate of the bloody Assad regime in Syria. Is United States foreign policy and national security policy now going to be based on “humanitarianism” and not vital national interests? If that is the case, the list of potential conflicts and civil wars where American military power can be employed to tip the scales to one side or the other is a hundred-fold larger than the list of potential conflicts that involve vital national interests. The Obama of 2008 campaigned against the ethos of “American interventionism,” but the Obama of 2013 wants to intervene everywhere humanitarian principles are violated in civil strife.
I challenge anyone, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, vegetarian or green or brown, to find one shred of evidence in any document, diary, speech or act of Congress since 1789 to suggest that the authors of the Constitution envisioned or even imagined any such justification for military adventures abroad.
Obama’s unconstitutional acts have now gone beyond policy arrogance and political opportunism. Obama’s actions threaten the very concept of constitutional limitations on executive authority. There is a constitutional remedy. It is called impeachment.
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