Yes vote needed on Syria strike

Opinion: Columns

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By Jamie Morgan

We should all urge our representatives in Congress to support President Obama's proposed military strike in Syria, should it come to a vote. Granting the president this authority is critical to maintaining the integrity of our system of checks and balances and the United States' leadership in the world.

Last week, President Obama asked Congress to delay voting on a military strike on Syria while his administration pursues a diplomatic settlement. Members of the Senate are preparing a resolution that would give Syria a deadline for complying with this diplomatic solution. Should Syria fail to meet that deadline — which history suggests is likely — Congress will return to the Syria resolution they have been debating until now. In such a vote, our representatives will determine three things. First, and at the most basic level, they will decide whether to support a limited military strike on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons on civilians. But in a broader sense, Congress will also determine the body's ongoing authority over military action in Syria, and it may also determine how future presidents exercise their authority as commander-in-chief.

If Congress authorizes President Obama's military strike on Syria, it will be able to define the scope of that strike. For anyone concerned about this strike turning into another Middle East war, that authority should be comforting. The resolution currently in the Senate bars President Obama from sending American troops into Syria. Should Congress vote no, it will not be a partner in the decision-making process with President Obama, nor will it have any authority over the scope of the military action. By voting yes on Syria, Congress will affirm its authority over the use of military power. It will also secure a place for itself in the Syria conversation, should the president move forward with military action. An affirmative vote will also send a signal to future presidents that including Congress in the initial decision to use military force — an action that is not required by the War Powers Resolution — will not result in dysfunction and embarrassment.

This is not to say that Congress should rubber stamp the president's request. There are several reasons that a military strike on Syria — a limited strike — is in our country's interest.

Action against Syria will impart an important message to Iran. It will tell both Iran and Israel that when the United States sets a "red line," that "red line" has real meaning and real consequences. As President Obama continues to try to dissuade the country from building a nuclear weapon, his credibility will determine his success or failure. The Iranian government has a proven record of supporting anti-American terrorist groups. Allowing such a regime to have a nuclear weapon would raise the risks associated with any terrorist attack to unacceptable levels.

Finally, the United States does have a vested interest in maintaining the international norm against chemical weapons, which have not been used against American troops since World War I. They are also difficult for terrorists to obtain, as most countries do not produce them anymore. When terrorists have used chemical weapons — such as in a subway in Tokyo in 1995 — the attack injured some 6,000 people. The importance of this norm and the protection it offers should not be underestimated.

A vote for a military strike in Syria is not a vote for a new war. It is a vote to delimit the use of U.S. military force. It is a vote for U.S. credibility in the international community. And most importantly, it is a vote for American values and security. Call your congressional official and urge him or her to vote yes.

Jamie Morgan is a lifelong Oak Parker. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in international relations at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Before coming to Princeton, Jamie spent five years working on national security policy in Washington D.C. and conducting research on U.S. government counterterrorism policies in Indonesia.

Reader Comments

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Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:50 AM

Thoughts: 1. Assad goes to trial only if he is defeated. Yugoslavia is the precedent. US can immediately push for set up in the World Court now. 2. US needs to act in its interests. It is in our interest to limit Syrian/Iranian influence in middle east. Sure the Lebanese would agree. 3. President is out to lunch following his outsourcing to Russia. How's that timeline, er, red line whatever working out? 4. Why would Congress want to work with the President after he hung them out?

joe  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 5:20 PM

One of the problems with our non participation in the ICC is it diminishes our ability to call for Assad to be prosecuted. At the same time a military strike would assist the rebels who are affiliated with Al Qaeda and are no better than Assad... This simply isn't our fight as any way we choose to get involved we loose. My heart goes out to the Syrian people but our hands are tied.

Say what? from Oak Park  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 4:58 PM

Um, Bruce...it's a middle eastern country. They don't exactly have a legal system in the manner of ours. The law there is whoever is in power will do whatever the hell they want. The author's is about what you might expect of a graduate of the Wilson School of Progressivism.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 4:54 PM

Bruce Samuels , the difference between you and Jamie is you understand. An attack on Syria will kill more children, and adults. Maybe if people like Jamie spend more time in battle, they will know the realities of what they can so easily call for. Mr. Obama did the right thing, regardless of what people say. All wars end in a resolution, so this is the start of a resolution without the mayhem a strike would cause.

OP Transplant  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 3:38 PM

Bruce - OK, I'll ask the obvious question. How do you bring Assad to trial without first removing him from power? And how is he removed from power without force?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 12:03 PM

Even Assad, as horrible as he is, should be brought to trial as Eichmann was. He won't be able to use the excuse of "I only followed orders" as Eichmann did. The USA should stand for law and order not irresponsible rogue actions.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: September 20th, 2013 12:01 PM

Where was the outcry when Iraq gassed its Kurd citizens with weapons that the USA gave them? Afterwards they used our weapons in a war with Iran. Since you conducted research on Indonesia, where was the outcry when thousands were killed in East Timor? And finally where is your outcry when thousands of innocent people are killed by Obama's drones? None of these actions, including Syria's gassing of its own citizens are acceptable or moral. All are against international law.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: September 19th, 2013 10:07 AM

I think the President as CINC has the authority strike - without Congress. The president got cold feet and bungled this. Furthermore, his on again off again quest for authorization from Congress has ensured a no vote from Congress. Leaders in the Senate and House honored his request to take it to their bodies and suddenly the President is working with Putin and forgot to give Congress a heads up. Bad politics. Bad leadership.

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