Why so Syrious? The Problem of American Involvement in the Syrian Civil War

It is fair to say when it comes to politics many people will say or do next to anything to win an election.

In 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama made a public statement denouncing the Bush administration saying, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” This statement was popularly received by the nation after four years of military involvement in Iraq.

It would seem these words have all but faded away; however, from now-President Obama’s mind after making a public statement Saturday that, “the United States should take military action against Syrian Regime targets.” The President then went on to say that he believes he has the power to launch this strike without specific congressional approval, but that for the good of the nation he’ll seek Congress’ approval.

I cannot help but be troubled by this on a number of levels. First of all, I consider this involvement in Syria yet another example in a growing pattern of US involvement in the internal conflicts of foreign states. In the past, the United States has militarily involved itself only when directly threatened, when the interests of its people are directly threatened, or when an allied state is directly threatened. Now it seems we’ll jump into any dispute where we feel human rights are being violated within a foreign nation. 

This leads to involvement in situations which we do not fully understand, against states that had not formally been directly antagonistic to us. Meanwhile we take on the responsibility of propping up a state militarily and economically whilst we ourselves are facing a nearly 17 trillion dollar deficit, a high unemployment rate (especially for young people), and a hunger rate of one in six American families.

Then, after all of this — after losing countless American lives and expending a massive amount of resources to facilitate a regime change — it is not unlikely that within a matter of months the replacement leader or government will themselves become autocratic and antagonistic towards the United States. The time has come to take leadership in these matters away from those who are so easily governed by emotion and social hardships and to restore leadership in these matters to those of more pragmatic and rational mindsets.

Secondly, although I am pleased that the President the approval of Congress for military action, it bothers me to see him act as if this is some magnanimous act of charity on his part. The Constitution is explicit about the government’s role in military matters. It was written that the Congress and the Congress alone could authorize wars against another nation.

The President’s position as the Commander and Chief exists merely to facilitate military decisions in a time of war once the Congress has declared war. It does not give him the power to authorize military engagement with a foreign state. To hear the President and his advisers act as if following the Constitution is a charitable act on their part reveals a lack of respect for the rule of law and for the Constitution from our nation’s leaders.

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