Opinion

September 10, 2013

Congress should vote no on attacking Syria

More than a year ago, President Barack Obama drew a “red line” warning the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons against rebels in that country’s civil war. He now says the government crossed that line, attacking opposition forces with chemical weapons more than two weeks ago.

But Obama has found few people willing to support his call for military action against the Syrian regime. Internationally, France is the only major power to support military intervention in Syria. Great Britain, which has long been America’s strongest ally, won’t take part in any military action. Its Parliament voted down a resolution calling for strikes against Syria.

At home, a CNN/ORC poll released Monday found only 39 percent of Americans believe Congress should authorize military action against Syria. Just 44 percent would support military action even if Congress does approve it. And a whopping 71 percent oppose any action if Congress doesn’t approve it.

On Monday, Northwest Georgia residents turned out at U.S. Rep. Tom Graves’ district office in Dalton to voice their opposition to striking Syria.

The president hopes to change the tide of public opinion with a speech tonight that will be covered by the national television networks. He’ll have a tough time making his case.

For one, the forces fighting against the Syrian government themselves have committed a lengthy list of atrocities, ranging from torture of captured soldiers, to attacking civilians to kidnapping priests and destroying churches.

Many of the rebels are Islamic extremists, some openly allied with al-Qaeda. The administration says 15 to 20 percent of the rebels are Islamists. Opponents of military intervention say the share of rebels who are Islamic fundamentalists is much higher.

Any strike we make against the Syrian government will only help the people committing these atrocities.

Second, the administration has been sending out very mixed messages about its goals in Syria. On the one hand, it has said the situation there is very serious, demanding immediate action and opposing efforts to limit its options there. On the other, it has said that waiting for Congress to approve military strikes won’t impair America’s ability to act. And on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said any U.S. action against Syria would be “(an) unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” That reinforces what an unnamed administration spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. That person said the administration planned action that would be “just muscular enough not to get mocked” and “just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic.”

Americans aren’t ready to support military action against Syria, even if it is “unbelievably small.” Nothing the president can say tonight will change that.

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