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Non Serviam, Mr. President

Ramesh Ponnuru says that his National Review colleagues are wrong to support bombing Syria. Excerpt:

There is also the constitutional point. This is not a military action that we are undertaking to defend ourselves from attack or to protect a core interest. The congressional power to declare war, if it is not to be a dead letter, has to apply here. And it seems to me exceedingly unlikely that Congress would vote to commit us in Syria, because the public manifestly opposes it. This is a war with no clear objective, thus no strategy to attain it, no legal basis, and no public support. I dissent.

Hey, ‘memba this?:

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” candidate Obama told The Boston Globe in late 2007. He added that the president can only act unilaterally in “instances of self-defense.”

If Barack Obama pulls the trigger on Syria, he’s a liar. Oh wait, we already know he’s a liar: he involved the US in the war against Libya in 2011 without Congressional approval.

Bashar Assad is an evil man. He does not represent a threat to the United States of America. This is not our business.

What if you were a soldier under arms right now, or had a son or daughter who was. How would you feel about the fact that our president may be about to launch, for the second time in two years, a war on a country that has not attacked the United States, and that does not directly affect US interests — and that he was going to do so without getting approval from Congress for a declaration of war?

What if you had children right now, boys or girls who would consider serving their country in the armed forces. Could you encourage them to do that, knowing that the commander-in-chief reserves the right to launch punitive wars on other nations at his personal discretion? I could not. I will not.

UPDATE: I wish to associate myself with this very fine post from Noah172 in the combox thread:

One Iraq veteran’s two cents:

As I have written in previous comment threads, I was still supportive of the Iraq debacle when I was in it, basically because I did want to believe that my service and the service of other soldiers (many of whom made far greater sacrifices than I) was all in vain — which, horribly, was the truth. Other soldiers whom I knew had already soured on the war and Bush by that point. They weren’t serving for politics. They were trying to protect each other, provide for their families, and serve as honorably and morally as they could under the circumstances.

Many military members, across the services and occupational specialties, perform functions which save lives as well as take them: battlefield medicine (which is often provided to local civilians and even wounded enemy combatants); intelligence; ordinance disposal; and more. Among the infantry with whom I worked in Iraq (I was not infantry myself), I saw a high degree of professionalism and serious effort to avoid non-combatant casualties — even to the point of putting ourselves at somewhat greater risk. For me personally, I like to take solace in thinking, despite the overall injustice and folly of the war, that the operations of which I was a part in our little corner of Iraq saved some lives, American and Iraqi.

I do not support any criminal war with Syria (or Iran or anybody else) one iota. Politics aside, I’ll echo commenter Wes by noting that our servicemen, whatever their human flaws (and any veteran knows that those are legion), and despite depraved exceptions (e.g. the Mahmoudiyah massacre 2006; the Kandahar massacre 2012), are not mercenaries, Obama’s personal goon squad, or (to use the 60s antiwar term) baby-killers.

[Rod:]What if you had children right now, boys or girls who would consider serving their country in the armed forces. Could you encourage them to do that, knowing that the commander-in-chief reserves the right to launch punitive wars on other nations at his personal discretion?

Servicemen do not serve the President personally, nor (generally) do they serve for politics (which is distinct from serving for patriotism).

I would say to my child that these wars are criminal and stupid, and you should know that going in. I would say that if you wish to serve your (our) country in the military, do all that you can to serve honorably and in a way that saves lives and mitigates, in your own small way, the damage done by our corrupt overlords. If you do not wish to participate directly in these unjust wars, show respect for those who do — none of that Vietnam-era spitting and name-calling — and serve your country in some other capacity, and take action — lawful, peaceful action — to mitigate the war’s damage and contribute to its speedy conclusion.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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