Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) made an argument against military action in Syria that was easily the most compelling case that anyone on either side of the debate has offered.
Sen. Sanders said:
I’m keeping an open mind, and I want to hear everything the administration has to say, but I would be less than honest with you if I didn’t say I have very, very deep concerns about this proposal.
Here are my concerns Ed, and there are a number of them. Number one, the Congress as everybody knows is significantly dysfunctional today, and in the midst of a collapsing middle class, high unemployment, low wages, global warming, and all of the other major problems our country faces, We’re not dealing with them today, and what do you think happens if we get involved in a war in Syria where all the attention will be? How are we going to address the major problems facing our people?
Issue number two. The president talks about a surgical strike, limited engagement. But listen carefully to what people like Sen. McCain are talking about. That’s not what they’re talking about. They’re talking about regime change. They’re talking about overthrowing Assad. And that means billions and billions of dollars, and if the effort does not go well sometime in the future, it could, it could mean troops on the ground.
Third point, you know, we talk about a world of law. I have real concerns about the United States acting unilaterally without the United Nations, without NATO, without the international community. I think that sets a terrible precedent in the years to come for other countries to take similar action, and what are we going to say if Russia or China goes to war.
The clincher in Sen. Sanders argument is that the cost of this action may be paid for by the poor, “Our Republican friends have made it very clear. They’re not going to ask the wealthy or large corporations to pay more in taxes. They already want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. What may well be happening is the cost of this war may be paid for by more kids being thrown off Head Start. Senior citizens being thrown off Meals on Wheels programs. Educational programs being cut. The Republicans would go in that way to pay for this war. That’s clear to me.”
It turns out that the most compelling argument against military action in Syria is a simple one. We can’t trust the Republicans not to drag us into another war. Sen. Sanders separated the surgical strikes that President Obama wants from the long term goal of regime change that neo-con hawks like John McCain are pushing for.
President Obama isn’t going to be in office forever, so the question is would a future president use the authorization of 2013 as justification for full scale war elsewhere in the region after the current president leaves office? I think this is much more realistic possibility than the idea that Obama is about to take the country into a full scale Iraq style war. The precedent for overreaching on an authorization has already been set. Remember, George W. Bush used the authorization of force in Afghanistan as justification for the invasion of Iraq.
I trust Obama’s judgment, but I don’t trust John McCain, or any potential future Republican president to do the responsible thing.
Bernie Sanders made a compelling argument by not screaming that Syria will be another Iraq, calling Obama a warmonger, or dreaming up fear based fantasy scenarios for a full scale war with Syria.
Just saying no, and we don’t belong there isn’t enough. The humanitarian argument for intervention is a strong one, but an equally strong case can be made for Democrats pushing to spend the money that would be spent in Syria on restoring some funding to the food stamp program or Meals on Wheels.
Sen. Sanders made the best argument that you will ever hear against military strikes in Syria. He made his case without insulting the president. He has kept an open minded, and acknowledged what a difficult decision this is.
One thing is clear. The country is benefiting from the debate that President Obama has encouraged our nation to have. No matter the outcome of the congressional vote, the American people aren’t being steamrolled into more military action.
The thoughtful views of people like Bernie Sanders are getting a full airing, and the the nation is better off because of it.