If you think that Wednesday’s vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting limited military strikes in Syria signals that Congress is ready to go along with the White House plan for punishing Bashar al-Assad’s government, think again. This morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that as of today, no one in the Wisconsin congressional delegation favors attacking Syria. The ideologically diverse Wisconsin delegation is probably a better indicator of legislative sentiment on the issue than the membership of the foreign relations committee is.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made the most salient political point concerning Syria during hearings this week when he observed that thousands of calls are flooding into Senate offices about the President’s plan, and virtually none of them supports it. Surveys of public opinion by Pew Research and theWashington Post indicate strong opposition to the idea of using military strikes to punish Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people.
The reason most respondents say they oppose military action is that they doubt limited strikes will make a difference, and they fear that America will become embroiled in yet another Middle East quagmire. So the Obama Administration’s strenuous efforts to demonstrate that Assad’s forces are guilty of war crimes are almost beside the point. The real issue is that most voters don’t think it is wise to continuously re-inject U.S. military power into the affairs of a region that has already claimed thousands of U.S. lives and trillions of taxpayer dollars since the 9-11 attacks. Obama won the White House by promising to get American forces out of the Middle East, and that is still what the electorate wants.
Since the administration can’t prove that any U.S. military action in Syria can be kept limited or positively impact the situation on the ground, it is likely that legislative sentiment for attacking Assad’s forces has already peaked. Unless Assad perpetrates some new outrage, congressional misgivings about intervening in Syria are likely to grow right up to the point when both chambers vote on the resolution that would authorize presidential action. Thus, a majority of members probably will cast votes reflecting the views of their constituents who oppose military action, and the resolution will be defeated.
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