U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson of east Cobb and Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie, unlike many in Congress who are still on the fence, made no bones that they think a U.S. response sought by President Obama is appropriate.
“I support the use of military action in Syria,” Isakson said. “If we fail to take strong action against Syria for this horrendous attack, then we are sending a signal to Syria as well as to Iran and North Korea that they are accountable to no one.”
And said Chambliss, “Based on available intelligence, there can be no doubt the Assad regime is responsible for using chemical weapons on the Syrian people. It is time for the United States to act in a serious way, and send a clear message to Assad and his allies that the world will not tolerate chemical or biological attacks. Continuing to do nothing is not an option. Short of putting troops on the ground, I believe a meaningful military response is appropriate.”
Isakson added he is disappointed that Obama is waiting until next week to seek authorization from Congress.
Meanwhile, the three Congressmen who represent parts of Cobb all share doubts about such a U.S. response.
“While the use of chemical weapons is intolerable, the United States must not get mired down in the Syrian civil war,” said U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta).
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-east Cobb), also has doubts.
“President Obama imposed his self-determined ‘red line’ over a year ago warning Syria that action would follow the use of chemical weapons. He then ignored the use of those same weapons this past spring,” he said. “While we condemn the horrific murder of innocent people within Syria, the United States must determine whether or not our national security interest is best served by military intervention.”
And sharing such doubts is U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-south Cobb).
“More answers are needed before U.S. resources, both personnel and funding, are spent on another Middle Eastern conflict,” Scott wrote in an open letter to Obama last week. “Americans want clarity in understanding the reasons that action would need to be taken. They also want to hear the overall strategy and goals of a military campaign so that they can have confidence that the wise decisions have been made and that our allies have been fully engaged.”
Those comments show Capitol Hill to be as deeply conflicted on the issue as most Americans. There is overwhelming agreement that such weapons should not be used by armies against each other, much less against unarmed civilians, as has unquestionably happened in Syria. Yet there also is overwhelming sentiment against getting involved in yet another military conflict in that part of the world. The American people are weary of war. And Barack Obama ran for president on a peace platform, and was handed a Nobel Peace Prize before he’d barely gotten his desk-seat warm, yet instead has involved us in a third war (the Libyan revolution) and is pushing hard to involve us in a fourth.
The American people are weary not just of war, but of seeing our military used as the world’s police force. They’re weary of seeing their sons and daughters sent to far-flung corners of the globe at enormous cost in blood and treasure to enforce strategies and policies poorly understood by many and with which many strongly disagree.
Unfortunately, Obama has signaled that the U.S. response, if there is one, will be a token one. It is not aimed at dismantling Assad’s military or the regime itself, and will be short in duration. It’s a funny way to fight a war, in other words. It’s as if Franklin Roosevelt had said Dec. 8, 1941 that our response to Pearl Harbor would not focus on destroying the Japanese military or its leadership and would end by a predetermined date.
But as the Japanese found out, and as we found out after some of our earlier interventions in the Middle East, once hostilities start, all bets are off. There’s no telling how Assad might respond.
We’ll leave it to the constitutional experts to argue about whether Obama is required to obtain the consent of Congress before entering hostilities. But there’s no question from a practical and political standpoint, Obama needs to have not just Congress but the American people behind him before he starts firing weapons in Syria’s direction. And at this point, he has neither.