Americans Don't Want A War in Syria—And They're Working Hard to Prevent One
Continued from previous page
In the last two days, two letters signed by a total of 163 Members of Congress have been sent to Obama urging the White House to seek congressional approval before taking military action. One letter, organized by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.) with 116 signers, including 18 Democrats, states: “Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat exists to the United States and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.” The signers conclude saying: “If you deem military action in Syria is necessary, Congress can reconvene at your request. We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us, and share the burden of decisions made regarding US involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.”
A second letter authored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) has 53 Democratic Party signers. This letter states: “Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.” The letter concludes: “Before weighing the use of military force, Congress must fully debate and consider the facts and every alternative, as well as determine how best to end the violence and protect civilians.”
The Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States also called on President Obama to seek congressional approval before going to war, noting that under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution, it is the Congress that determines whether the United States goes to war. They also note that “If President Obama launches an attack without prior explicit authorization by Congress, he will have committed an offense worthy of impeachment.”
In addition to domestic law, an attack on Syria will violate international law if it proceeds without the approval of the United Nations. The Green Shadow Cabinet points out that “attacking another country without UN approval is ‘the supreme international crime.’” This point is also made in the letter authored by Rep. Barbara Lee “We strongly support the work within the United Nations Security Council to build international consensus condemning the alleged use of chemical weapons and preparing an appropriate response; we should also allow the U.N. inspectors the space and time necessary to do their jobs, which are so crucial to ensuring accountability.”
There had been indications that the US and UK were planning to go ahead without UN approval and without waiting for the UN inspectors report on the chemical weapons. Prime Minister Cameron received push back from the Labor Party and has now requested a resolution from the UN Security Council and will not debate the issue until the UN makes a decision. If the UN Security Council rejects military action, it will make it more difficult – but not impossible – for the US and UK to take military action.
The repercussions of a military attack on Syria are unpredictable and dangerous
The Obama administration is reportedly considering a limited strike that would last two or three days that would not have as its goal regime change. Rather the goal would be to prevent further use of chemical weapons by Assad. However, even if that is their intent (and after the way the attack on Libya unfolded and turned into regime change, we do not assume that is really their intent), it does not mean the United States will be able to prevent escalation.