There seems to be little question that we are heading, once again, toward military intervention in the Middle East. Even if we assume that (1) chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria, and (2) Assad is fully responsible for their deployment, is there a strong case for US intervention?
Love or hate Patrick Buchanan (or love and hate Pat Buchanan), he asks some important questions in his most recent essay. Some of them deal with the president’s authority to draw “red lines” and act as “the Wyatt Earp of the Global Village.” The same question was asked repeatedly when George W. Bush was president. Others address the factual case. The most relevant question for me is a simple one: where is Congress? Buchanan provides a series of questions that Congress might ask before approving or rejecting intervention:
Do we have incontrovertible proof that Bashar Assad ordered chemical weapons be used on his own people? And if he did not, who did?
What kind of reprisals might we expect if we launch cruise missiles at Syria, which is allied with Hezbollah and Iran?
If we attack, and Syria or its allies attack U.S. military or diplomatic missions in the Middle East or here in the United States, are we prepared for the wider war we will have started?
Assuming Syria responds with a counterstrike, how far are we prepared to go up the escalator to regional war? If we intervene, are we prepared for the possible defeat of the side we have chosen, which would then be seen as a strategic defeat for the United States?
If stung and bleeding from retaliation, are we prepared to go all the way, boots on the ground, to bring down Assad? Are we prepared to occupy Syria to prevent its falling to the Al-Nusra Front, which it may if Assad falls and we do not intervene?
Perhaps it is time for Congress to return from vacation, postpone the anemic debates over government shutdowns, the debt ceiling and the defunding of Obamacare, and execute its constitutional duties … while there is still time.