Congresspersons’ Syria Dilemma

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch.

There are a lot of “whip counts” on the House of Representatives, indicating a firm "nay" on intervening in Syria. From the Senate whip count, it appears that there are more undecideds than anything else. That this may well change after President Barack Obama's Tuesday night address, but from reports it seems that the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to any action in Syria, except humanitarian aid and diplomacy, which will tend to make Reps. wary of voting "yea."

The Senate will vote first, which potentially precludes a House vote. The first thing to note is that the Senate, and some members of the House, know a lot more about what is going on in Syria then we do. That is why they call them "classified briefings," and they may be the reason that so many Senators are undecided. 

More after the jump.

Some believe it is imperative to bomb Syria, and their reasons are simple: Chemical weapons cannot be tolerated; reining president Bashar al-Assad will use them again if we do not stop him; and we are the United States, so it is our responsibility to lead the world. 

Others are so war weary, that they do not care about the chemical weapons. They just see the situation as a way to get embroiled in 10 years of yet another war in the Middle East, with the potential to spread outside of Syria, and possibly into a World War III. 

If I had to prognosticate, I would believe we will bomb, beginning on Sunday, Sept. 15. In addition to bombing, we will surgically remove Assad and his regime. 

But what I am interested in is the party politics going forward. We have been saying since 2009 that the Republican Party is imploding, and there is a huge schism caused by the rise of the Tea Party. And this is another rift for them: the GOP has always been the party of war, of neocons, and of the military-industrial complex. The "daddy" party, if you will. If they all vote “nay,” or enough of them do to preclude congressional concurrence, Obama can certainly still bomb, and if it is successful, that wing of the party is in trouble for 2016. In every debate they would get asked, "Why didn't you stand up for America?"

A different set of problems presents itself for the Democrats. All House Democrats, and a lot of Democratic Senators, will be running next year. Into their calculus is certainly whether they would want to be seen as standing with or against the President on the issue. If the bombing turns into a war, voting "yea" would hurt them. However, voting "nay" before a successful bombing would mean a lot of explaining to the rank and file during any primaries, and possibly problems raising money down the road.

The decision that each member of Congress makes will not be simple. While some people are incredibly hawkish, and would vote “yea” for any  military action; and while the Democratic leadership is obligated to vote with the President; this is a vote of conscience, not of party.  For the first time since he has been in office (since 2001), my Congressman sent me an email, asking my opinion as to go or no-go. I am pretty sure that this email went to every email address in the district that his office could get its hands on. I understand that a lot of Reps. have been reaching out, in addition to taking calls. 

The countrywide discussion is a good thing. I am sorry that not every country has this sort of verbal intercourse prior to every potential military action. There may be options which will solve the problem of chemical weapons without causing additional deaths. 

My personal preference is to seek a diplomatic solution, and failing that, to arm the moderate rebels, and not the jihadists. It is also important to lead a humanitarian relief effort for the Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Greece, and the other countries to which they have escaped. I do not see an upside to the bombing — only potential disasters. But that is just one girl's opinion. What is yours?


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