An Open Letter to the Undecided in Congress about Syria

Dear Congressman/Senator.

As a constituent in your district, I strongly urge you to vote NO on the authorization for use of force in Syria, for the following reasons:

  • The rationale for action is lacking moral authority. The stated premise for action is “punishment for use of chemical weapons”, “violating international norms”. But the arbiters of international norms are the United Nations, the ICC, or at least a consensus of the signers of the weapons treaties or a sizable consortium of global powers, not the President or Congress of the United States. It would be justifiable perhaps, if backed by the international community, not opposed by the UN, the Pope, the European Union, the Arab League, and others who more fully embrace “international norms”.
  • Use of force in Syria is an act of aggression that will provoke a response. We must be prepared for whatever form that takes, be it terrorism at home, abduction of the children of diplomats and officials (as Iran has threatened), conflict with Russia who has warships in the area, or an attack on Israel. Taking action without the will, resources and assets in place to deter or counter such a response with overwhelming force would be irresponsible. Failure to deter or counter will only lead to more degradation of our influence in the world than this President has already caused. If the US attacks Syria, it must be willing to see the conflict through to a victory for our interests, otherwise there is much to lose.
  • There is little downside for inaction. For Congress to not authorize force against Syria will not (as some have claimed) “weaken our ability to respond to other threats including the Iranian nuclear program”, if the vote is clearly limited to Syria and a vote of no-confidence in this President’s ability to conduct a limited military action.
  • We are not sufficiently prepared for this action. The Obama military cuts, together with sequestration, have weakened our ability to act if the conflict escalates (as it likely will) beyond a “limited punitive strike”. Leaving Iraq without a residual force, the mis-adventure in Libya including the Benghazi debacle, bumbling our actions with respect to Egypt – all have weakened our credibility in the Arab world, making retaliation more likely and the effectiveness of a strike that leaves the Assad regime intact unlikely.

I am not an isolationist and believe that US military intervention when our national interest is clearly defined is justified and sometimes necessary. A successful intervention has a clearly defined policy goal, a definable and achievable military objective, a plan that provides sufficient resources to prevail, and indisputable political support both at home and abroad. This president’s wish to intervene in the Syria civil war passes none of these tests.

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