The United States is considering intervening in the civil war in Syria because of allegations that the Syrian government of Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in the conflict. If President Obama orders a military strike on Syria, it would constitute both an illegal and unconstitutional action on the part of the United States. The Syrian conflict is an internal matter and is it is not worth losing one American life over, not to mention that the world would be far worse off if the rebels did succeed in overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Assad. If President Obama orders preemptive U.S. military action, Congress should come back from its recessed session in order to begin the process of impeaching the President.
Under international law, which the United States is contractually obligated to abide by because of its membership in the United Nations, a military strike can only be justified if two conditions are met: 1) Self-defense; and 2) A United Nations Security Council Resolution authorizing force. Syria has not attacked the United States and the United Nations has not authorized the use of force in that country. Therefore, a military strike on Syria ordered by President Obama would be illegal under international law.
On another note, the constitutionality of a military strike raises a separate question. Under the War Powers Act, the President is authorized to use force for up to 60 days without consulting with Congress. Many in Congress maintain that the President needs a vote of authorization to take military action. Seventeen Democratic members of the House of Representatives, including several in the Massachusetts delegation, have signed a letter to President Obama stating that they believe that a unilateral strike on Syria without Congressional authorization is unconstitutional. In addition, over 150 members of Congress have called on the President to convene Congress back into session to discuss the Syria issue. Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war.
Regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons, there is no evidence that President Assad has used them. By all accounts, the Syrian government is winning the war against the rebels. Thus, there is no need for the Assad regime to use chemical weapons. If chemical weapons were used they were likely used by the rebels in order to drag the United States into the conflict. The rebels have been known to employ Machiavellian tactics. It is the rebels that have claimed that the Assad regime used the weapons. We know for a fact that past rebel claims have proven fictitious. These observations have been made by United Nations officials, Russia, China, and Britain. This is why it is looking like the United States will go it alone if it chooses to strike.
President Bashar Assad, an optometrist who was educated at Harvard University, has been moving slowly to institute democratic reforms in Syria, keeping in mind that the country is not ready for Western-style democracy. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) recently commented, “America would be in greater danger at this point if the radical Islamists and terrorists in the opposition manage to win than if Assad survives.”
Although Bashar Assad has been a brutal dictator who has ruled with an iron fist, the fact remains that the rebels in Syria are connected to Al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups. Many of the “rebels” are not even Syrian. They are soldier mercenaries from other Arab countries who have crossed into Syria seeking to topple the Assad regime. In the last several months these rebels have killed thousands of Christians, including women, children, and Catholic priests. The United States and the rest of the world is certainly better off with a secular dictator (Assad) than it is with Islamic extremists ruling the country.
The United States does not need to be dragged into another Middle East war that it cannot win. Just look at the results in Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Libya, and Tunisia. President Obama criticized then President Bush for his doctrine of preemptive warfare in Iraq. In 2007, then Senator Obama stated that it was unconstitutional for a President to engage in a preemptive strike without authorization from Congress. Now the shoe is on the other foot. A preemptive strike on Syria could certainly escalate the conflict on a regional or worldwide scale. If President Obama orders a preemptive strike against Syria without Congressional and international authorization, Congress should immediately begin the process of introducing articles of impeachment in order to remove President Obama from office.
D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident. He served as a member of the Dracut School Committee from 2005-2008 and the Greater Lowell Regional Voc-Tech School Committee from 1997-2009. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He teaches Social Studies full-time at Reading Memorial High School. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013).