President needs Congressional approval for strikes on Syria

Lynn Westmoreland 3rd District Congressman

September 6, 2013

As most of you know, Syria is in the middle of a violent civil war. According to the latest media reports, the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people and now President Obama is considering some type of a military intervention in Syria.

However, Article II, Section 8 of the US Constitution clearly gives Congress, and not the president, the power to “provide for the common defense” and “to declare war.” Therefore, any use of military force in or against Syria must be authorized by Congress. That is why I signed on to a letter with my colleagues in the House urging President Obama to “consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering the use of US military force in Syria.” We cannot allow this president to ignore the Constitution, once again, and get our country involved in what is clearly a religious-based civil war in an unstable region without authorization by Congress. It is our constitutional responsibility and I refuse to sit by and let President Obama trample all over our Constitution any more than he already has.

There is also a larger issue here as to whether or not the United States should so cavalierly be involving ourselves in every internal dispute in the Middle East. I agree that the reports out of Syria of the staggering death toll and the reported use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime are troubling. But that does not mean that the United States should intervene. This is a complicated situation and there are conflicting reports about exactly what is happening. While it is certainly not easy to sit back and watch some of what is being reported on the news, we should not get involved without all of the information. We do not want a repeat of what happened with US military intervention in Libya back in March 2011. Then, President Obama bypassed Congress – like he is attempting to do now – and directed the military to conduct missile strikes to enforce a no-fly zone. Eighteen months later, the Libyan Ambassador and four other Americans were brutally murdered in Libya. And now, more than two years later, that country is still unstable and the situation is not getting any better.

Until we are able to get accurate information about exactly who the rebels are and what their long-term plans are if they win out, the United States needs to be very careful about getting involved in Syria. And the president should not unilaterally make a decision that could involve our country in an unwinnable war.