Sunday, September 8, 2013

Both Parties Put Politics Above Country In Syria Debate

I’m always hesitant to write about the military or any potential military conflicts. I’ve never served in the military and, at this stage in my life it’s probably a safe bet that I never will. No, I was born too late for Vietnam and too early for Iraq.

I did register with Selective Service when I turned 18 and, while I considered the possibility of entering one of the military academies, I knew that I was probably not disciplined enough for a military life (though there is a school of thought that says that discipline would have helped my life at that point).

So, it’s always difficult for me to objectively discuss the military. Thankfully, I’ve never been in a position where I needed to kill someone (wanted to many times but never needed to) or where I was shot at, so I really don’t know what it’s like to be in combat and I would struggle with the decision to send anyone’s son or daughter into harm’s way particularly in a faraway foreign land to protect one of our nation’s many vital interests (which seem to change depending upon who is trying to justify military action).

Ronald Reagan was the first person who I ever cast a Presidential vote for and I’ve always believed that America is strong because we have a strong military. Like it or not, we are “The World’s Policeman” and there is a reason why our President, unlike other Heads of State, is called the “Commander-In-Chief”.

That being said, I also realize that any military conflict needs to have a goal and reach a desired outcome. Vietnam had a goal (stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia) but not the desired outcome.

The same with Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is heading into a self-induced chaos regardless of the Billions that we’ve pumped in there and Afghanistan, I thought that we were there to catch Bin Laden. Last time I checked, he’s still dead and we’re still there.

For years, I’ve said that we should recall our troops from the Middle East and put them in encampments along our Southern border to secure our own country. It would fix two problems: get us out of the Middle East and stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country.

In the debate involving Syria, I see both sides. No one should be allowed to commit genocide. But, we’ve turned a blind eye to African genocide for years. So, clearly, according to our elected officials at least, genocide alone is not enough of a reason for our country to get involved.

Is the use of chemical weapons enough? Can the U.S. force a sovereign nation to uphold a worldwide treaty that Syria did not sign?

Clearly, again, whether we like it or not, the United States is being looked at to provide leadership and commit our military assets in a potential conflict that does not directly impact the interests of the United States.

And, just as clearly, rather than addressing the issue and doing what is right for our country, Republicans and Democrats are capitalizing on the situation to score political points.

Republicans, who strongly supported President George W. Bush when Bush, in the view of many people, circumvented the Constitution and passed the “Authorization for use of Military Forces Against Terrorists Act”, and who conversely fought President Bill Clinton for Clinton’s bombing of Iraq in retaliation for Saddam Hussein’s action against the Kurds and alleged use of chemical weapons, are now not supporting President Obama’s call for action against Syria.

Democrats, who were opposed to President Bush’s intervention in Iraq and spread to Afghanistan, are now vociferous supporters of Obama.

When both parties put politics above country, it’s hard to tell who is who without a scorecard. 
President Obama, for his part, has backed away from unilaterally ordering a bombing raid and is now seeking Congressional approval for military action. The President, while seemingly vacillating, is following the Constitution.

How can any Republican Conservative, particularly a Constitutional Conservative, criticize President Obama for seeking Congressional approval as mandated by the Constitution? Forget whether a war in Syria is just or not or whether it will be bombs from planes or troops on the ground. If the President follows the Constitution, how can a Constitutional Conservative criticize him?

Similarly, how can Democrats, who have long fought U.S. intervention in world conflicts, now fall over themselves to support President Obama?

Neither side has heard all of the evidence that our intelligence community has gathered.

Polls show only a slight advantage to the anti-war side and, while now poll shows that war weary Americans want a prolonged intervention into a Syrian civil war, where we really don’t know if any side is better than the other, there is support for a conflict which does not result in significant U.S. casualties.

In Louisiana, our elected officials are similarly abdicating any real leadership and also choosing party over country.

Senator David Vitter (R-Metairie) and Congressmen John Fleming (R-Minden) and the soon-to-be ex-Congressman Rodney Alexander (R-Quitman), are opposed to military action. In fact, Vitter will be in Washington and have a briefing from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel although he has already stated that he is leaning towards voting “No”.

Congressman Steve Scalise (R-Metairie) wants to hear more information before deciding. 

“Unless we have a very clear military strategy going in and what we want to achieve with that and how does it relate to getting a peaceful settlement in Syria where we have a friendly Syrian government to the U.S.,” he said.
“Lobbing missiles because we want to look tough is not the answer.”

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-New Orleans) has said that she wants to hear the evidence before voting but, no one really believes that is her honest position.

Congressman Cedric Richmond (R-New Orleans) who is an ardent supporter of President Obama, has said that he will also support the President on Syria.

Republican Senatorial Candidate and Congressman Bill Cassidy(R-Baton Rouge) is “actively monitoring” the situation and has been involved in classified meetings involving Syria.

There are still many questions left unanswered so I will continue to engage with my colleagues in D.C. as well as discuss this issue with the people of Louisiana,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy’s response, while prudent, drew criticism from fellow Republican Senatorial Candidate Rob Maness (R-Madisonville). Maness, while claiming to be a “Constitutional Conservative”, has already stated, despite his not seeing any military intelligence and President Obama following the Constitution and seeking Congressional approval for any military action, that he is opposed and would vote “No” on any military intervention in Syria.

Maness called Cassidy’s actions “dithering” and said that he would provide more leadership than Cassidy.

"We already have a senator who dithers on major issues, tries to be all things to all people and seems not to embrace a single principle Louisianans would recognize," Maness said. "We certainly don't need to replace her with another Washington insider who can't - or won't - make up his mind for fear of offending someone."

Perhaps someone should ask candidate Maness how listening to all of the evidence and then making up your mind is “dithering” or how not seeing any intelligence and determining that you are against something is showing “Leadership”?

Don’t we expect jurors to listen to the evidence, debate the evidence and then decide?

If President Obama and his Administration can make a clear cut case for military action in Syria, whether it’s a three-day bombing like President Clinton utilized against Iraq or a limited 90-day action as is being proposed, and the President receives Congressional approval as is required by the Constitution, we must all put aside our party labels and support the President, whether we agree with him or not.

And, if that makes me a “ditherer”, so be it.

The decision to take any military action, potentially put American troops in harm’s way and get involved in the internal government of a sovereign nation is not a decision that should be taken lightly or entered into with preconceived notions.

And, it’s not a decision that should be determined by your allegiance to a political party or your attempts to score political points either.