Syria: A breach of international norms requires an international diplomatic response

As a country, we face few decisions as grave as committing our nation’s men and women in uniform to military action against an enemy. The Constitution clearly vests the responsibility to declare war and authorize the use of military force with the people’s representatives in Congress, and we commend the president for seeking congressional authorization for the use of force.

In the past, presidents from both political parties have failed to comply with the spirit and intent of the War Powers Resolution by not consulting with and gaining authorization from Congress for the use of military force. For these reasons, we support enactment of H.R. 383, the War Powers Reform Act, to clarify when the president is required to obtain congressional approval before committing our Armed Forces into hostilities.

The United States and Congress are currently at a crossroads in regards to the Syrian conflict, with the president’s request for Congress to authorize U.S. military action on hold pending recent diplomatic developments. We are strongly opposed to authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria and urge the president to exhaust all diplomatic options, including the current Russian proposal, to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict. U.S. military intervention will not improve the situation on the ground in Syria, but will exacerbate the conflict, embolden extremist forces and potentially require deeper U.S. involvement. 

Clearly, the situation in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy, and we sympathize with the tremendous suffering taking place there. However, the decision to use military force should be made with the utmost caution and only as an absolute last resort.

Indeed, there are no good actors in this conflict to support. Do we truly want to empower a rebel faction that includes many affiliated with al Qaeda and adversaries of the U.S. and our interests in the region? Instead, the United States should support the full leveraging of diplomatic, economic and humanitarian leadership to bring about a peaceful resolution to the violence in Syria under the aegis of an international body. 

Our international partners and other nations will never grow to accept their share of responsibility for regional stability if we do not encourage them to do so. If we consistently try to solve the world’s problems unilaterally, other world powers have no incentive to bear the burdens of global leadership, the consequences of which continue to affect America’s economic position and reputation.

Instead of leading with our ideas and values as the beacon of freedom and democracy, military intervention by the United States will turn the Syrian conflict into another international referendum on American overreach. We will become the focus of the war and the “bad guys,” not the Iran- and Hezbollah-backed Assad regime or al Qaeda-ridden rebels. 

Americans are overwhelmingly against getting involved militarily, whether the strikes are limited or not. Instinctively, they know our nation has done more than our fair share over the years. They are frustrated that the rest of the world expects us to place our sons and daughters in harm’s way and spend American tax dollars on wars, while other nations focus on rebuilding their economies after the recent global recession. Congress should listen to their entreaties. They transcend party and philosophical lines, after all, and we are their representatives.

We urge Congress to rightly represent the American people by respecting their opinion not to use military force in Syria. The United States should put all efforts into leading the international community’s diplomatic response to the illicit use of chemical weapons.

Schrader has represented Oregon’s 5th Congressional District since 2009 and sits on the Agriculture; Budget; and the Small Business committees. Gibson represents the 19th Congressional District of New York and has served in the House since 2011, sitting on the Agriculture and the Armed Services committees. He is a 29-year Army veteran, and rose to the rank of colonel before retiring in 2010. Schrader and Gibson work together as members of the bipartisan No Labels Problem-Solvers Coalition.