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Congress Must Vote Before Iraq War III

Last week, we were told there were 40,000 Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain facing starvation if they remained there, and slaughter by ISIS if they came down. But a team of Marines and Special Forces that helicoptered in has reported back that, with a corridor off the mountain opened up by U.S. air strikes, the humanitarian crisis is over. The few thousand who remain can be airdropped food and water. The rest can be brought out. The emergency over, President Obama should think long and hard about launching a new air war in Iraq or Syria. For Iraq War III holds the promise of becoming another Middle East debacle, and perhaps the worst yet.

America would be entering this war utterly divided. We are not even agreed on who the enemies are. Hillary Clinton thinks we should be tougher on Iran and that Obama blundered by not aiding the Syrian rebels when they first rose up to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Veteran diplomats Ryan Crocker, William Luers, and Thomas Pickering argue that Assad is not the real enemy. The Islamic State is, and we should consider a ceasefire between the Free Syrian Army and Assad.

“It makes no sense for the West to support a war against Assad as well as a war against the Islamic State,” they write, “Assad is evil but … he is certainly the lesser evil.” Crocker-Luers-Pickering also argue that the crisis calls for the United States to accept the nuclear deal with Iran that was on the table in July and work with Tehran against ISIS. Iranians and Americans are already rushing weapons to the Kurds, who have sustained a string of defeats at the hands of the Islamic State. “A new strategic relationship between the United States and Iran may seem impossible and risky,” the diplomats write, “yet it is also necessary and in the interests of both. While an alliance is out of the question, mutually informed parallel action is necessary.”

If we could work with the monster Stalin to defeat Hitler, is colluding with the Ayatollah beyond the pale?

Other arguments shout out against a new American war. How could we win such a war without the U.S. ground troops Obama pledged never to send, and the American people do not want sent? Air power may keep ISIS from overrunning Irbil and Baghdad, but carrier-based air cannot reconquer the vast territory the Islamic State has occupied in Iraq. Nor can it defeat ISIS in Syria.

If Obama did launch an air war on ISIS in Syria, our de facto ally and the principal beneficiary of those strikes would be the same Syrian regime that Obama and John Kerry wanted to bomb a year ago, until the American people told them no and Congress refused to vote them the authority. For such reasons, the demand of Sens. Tim Kaine and Rand Paul—that before Obama takes us back to war in Iraq, or into a new war in Syria, Congress must debate and authorize this war—is a constitutional and political imperative.

The questions Congress needs to answer are obvious and numerous.

Who exactly is our enemy? ISIS only, or Assad, Hezbollah and Iran as well? Will our involvement be restricted to air power—fighter-bombers, gunships, cruise missiles, drones? Or should the president be authorized to send U.S. ground troops to fight? If we are to be restricted to air power, is it to be confined to Iraq, or can it be used in Syria—and against Assad as well as ISIS?


If U.S. combat troops cannot be used, what are the prospects of expelling ISIS from Iraq? And if we should drive them out, what is the probability they will come back as soon as we leave, especially if we have left them in control of northern Syria? Is annihilation of ISIS the only permanent solution? How long and bloody a war would that require?

Will the president be authorized to coordinate war planning with Tehran? And if Assad is to become our de facto ally, should we end our support for the Free Syrian Army and negotiate an armistice and amnesty for the FSA?

Congress must be forced to debate and vote on this war, first, so we can hold them accountable for what is to come. Second, so we can force them to come to consensus on just what kind of outcome in this region is acceptable, and attainable, and at what cost.

What will victory look like? What will be the cost in blood and treasure? How long are we prepared to fight this war, an end to which does not today seem to be anywhere in sight? How reasonable is it to expect that the Kurdish peshmerga and an Iraqi Army that fled Kirkuk, Fallujah, and Mosul, will be able to recapture the Sunni regions of Iraq?

Finally, why is this our fight, 6,000 miles away, and not theirs?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

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#1 Comment By cecelia On August 15, 2014 @ 12:58 am

Yes – it is clear no one is really sure who the enemy is – McCain wants us to arm ISIS in Syria and bomb them in Iraq as does Hillary. If terrorism is the enemy – then our allies are Iran Russia and yes Assad.

We need some clarity in our foreign policy – actually – we need a lot of clarity. Would be nice to think congressional debate would achieve that or would it just be another chance to complain about the so called Kenyan Socialist President?

#2 Comment By mpledger On August 15, 2014 @ 3:20 am

This may not be America’s fight but it ought to be America’s job to put right.

America created the mess in Iran, Iraq and Afganistan and, after all that terror, bloodshed and turmoil, have no moral right to get to walk away saying “not our problem”.

My country, like many other countries, are picking up the pieces as people with shattered lives escape to live here.

Two years ago, an Iraqi man who had fought for the Iraqi army killed his wife, in front of his kids, because the Iraqi war had made him mentally unwell. His kids went to my child’s school, half a world away from where they were born. His kids and my kids are innocent of the stupid games adults play and don’t deserve to be involved in the horrors that evolve from them.

#3 Comment By Aaron Paolozzi On August 15, 2014 @ 9:12 am

All the questions that a responsible government should ask itself before committing to war. Yet does not.

#4 Comment By Mike On August 15, 2014 @ 11:25 am


It’s tempting to say it’s immoral for the US not to get involved militarily in fighting ISIS. After all, they’re easy to hate with all their abominable and evil acts, especially against women and children.

But it cannot be the policy of the United States to manage every significant crisis that occurs in the world. First, we’ve already gone to war twice in Iraq in the past quarter century (not to mention intervening bombing campaigns), and we’ve failed to make the area reflect American ideals. Why would we think the third time is the charm?

Second, by out repeated interventions, we distract all the disparate and conflicting parties by attracting their attention and eliciting common disdain for our presence there. If we just stayed out, they would have each other to fight rather than to rally to fight us. Would it really be a bad thing for the Assad regime to duke it out with ISIS? Would it be bad for Iran to offer assistance?

Third, the idea driving foreign interventionism is not a conservative one. I is one rooted in the revolutionary mindset of changing the world to better suit our ideals. Our sovereignty to directly impose our values does not extend beyond the United States. Indirectly, we can, of course, attach conditions to trade and apply diplomatic pressure to express disapproval for certain actions, if need be. But we do not own the world, nor should we. Striving to make sure no other power rises is not the mark of US strength but rather an indicator of our fear.

Fourth, agreeing in principle that foreign interventionism is misguided but urging immediate action in this case is tempting but mistaken. The news of what’s happening with the Iraqi Christians being driven from their homes, possessions taken, and even being killed should make all of us, especially those of the household of faith shudder. But military intervention will give only short term gains at the expense of long term stability. Each human life is precious, but God has not entrusted the US government with the task of defending every vulnerable soul in the world.

I can hear the response already: “But I’m not talking about a response to every situation – just this one! I mean, those children…” Yes, the children are suffering and Christians are being persecuted. But we are and should be a republic, not an empire.

#5 Comment By cdugga On August 15, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

The US should not take action until congress does? When congress finally takes some action on anything the sunnis and shia will be celebrating the weddings of their sons and daughters! But what if the damage is already done. What happens when ISIS is blamed for a terror attack against the US? The cynical me says, first we should investigate if it really was ISIS and not some global arms dealer fomenting conflict for business reasons. Nobody is volunteering to go to the region with an 80 pound pack and assault rifle, but it might not be hard to sell drones for security. You can blow up bad guys and pick up some milk and bread on your way home.

#6 Comment By John On August 15, 2014 @ 10:28 pm

I’m definitively against our intervention, but the 2002 Iraq AUMF has yet to be repealed.

If Congress wants to force a vote – and boy, do I really want them to – they need to repeal it.