The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.”
With this citation from Madison, Cong. Walter Jones is calling for a debate and decision on whether America should go to war in Syria and Iraq, when Congress reconvenes after Nov. 4.
Last week’s events make Jones’ request a national imperative.
For former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says we are heading into a “30-year war” against the Islamic State and the emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.
He faults Obama for not bombing Syria when Assad crossed his “red line” and used chemical weapons. U.S. credibility was damaged, says Panetta. “There’s a little question mark to, is the United States going to stick this out?” This new war is the opportunity “to repair the damage.”
Yet consider the man Panetta wants to lead the United States into a war to restore America’s credibility.
The president’s “most conspicuous weakness” is “a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause,” says Panetta. Too often, he “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.” He “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
But with Hamlet as your commander in chief, why would you start a war?
And consider our allies in this new war.
Joe Biden has been forced to apologize to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for saying at Harvard that both had been providing huge infusions of money and weapons to the ISIS terrorists who have beheaded Americans.
But what was Joe guilty of, other than blurting out the truth?
The terrorists of ISIS are today closing in on the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobani on the Turkish border, having overrun scores of villages. A hundred thousand Syrian Kurds have fled into Turkey.
Yet though ISIS warriors are visible right across the border, and Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, with 3,500 tanks and 1,000 aircraft, the Turks are sitting on their hands, awaiting what may be a massacre.
Why? David Stockman quotes Turkish President Erdogan this weekend: “For us, ISIL and the (Kurdish) PKK are the same.”
Erdogan is saying a plague on both their houses. To Istanbul, the PKK are terrorists, as are the ISIS fighters the PKK is trying to keep from overrunning Kobani.
The United States, too, designates both the Islamic State and the PKK as terrorist organizations.
Which terrorist organization do we want to win this battle?
Who do we want to win the war between ISIS and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra front on one side, and Assad’s regime, which Obama and John Kerry wanted to bomb in August of 2013?
Whose side are we on in Lebanon?
This weekend, al-Qaida’s Syrian wing, Jabhat al-Nusra, lost 16 jihadists in an incursion into the Bekaa Valley. Who defended Lebanon and fought the terrorist intruders?
Hezbollah, which we have declared a terrorist organization.
Whose side are we on in the Hezbollah vs. al-Qaida war?
In Yemen last week, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, whom the United States has been attacking for years, sent a suicide bomber in an explosives-laden car into a hospital used by Houthi rebels, who have taken over the capital of Sanaa.
Are the Houthis America’s allies?
Probably not, as they have plastered Sanaa with their slogans, “Death to America, death to Israel, a curse on the Jews, and victory to Islam.”
The Houthis fighting al-Qaida, like Hezbollah fighting al-Qaida, are Shia, supported by Iran, which is on our side against ISIS in Syria and on our side against the Islamic State in Iraq.
But to Bibi Netanyahu, speaking at the U.N. last week, Iran is the great enemy: “[T]o defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power would be to win the battle and lose the war.”
Hence, the neocon war drums have begun to beat for U.S. strikes on Iran if negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program conclude Nov. 24, with no deal satisfactory to the United States.
But no matter how olfactory its regime, why start a war with an Iran that is a de facto, and perhaps indispensable, ally in preventing ISIS from establishing its caliphate in Damascus and Baghdad?
Since 1980, writes Andrew Bacevich, the United States has invaded, occupied or bombed 14 nations in the Greater Middle East – Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kosovo, Yemen, Pakistan and now Syria.
The cost: Tens of thousands of U.S. dead and wounded, trillions of dollars lost, hundreds of thousands of Muslim dead and wounded, millions of refugees, Christians foremost among them. And for what?
Are we better off now than we were 30 years ago, with the Middle East today on fire with civil, sectarian, tribal and terrorist wars?
Congress should vote no on any new Thirty Years’ War.
Privately, Barack Obama would probably be grateful.