In this Washington Post op-ed, our friend Tom Cotton and his House colleague (and fellow veteran) Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) support the use of force against the Assad regime in response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons. They make three arguments. The first is based on U.S. credibility:
Obama drew [a] “red line” a year ago. . . .With or without that comment, our enemies and allies would still be watching to see whether we will tolerate rogue dictators using weapons of mass destruction on the borders of our allies. Inaction will tell Assad, Kim Jong Un and others that it’s open season for the use of chemical weapons. Assad might also transfer these weapons to his terrorist ally Hezbollah, which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
The day the United States fails to act against Assad is likely the day Iran’s supreme leader spins his uranium centrifuges into overdrive. If we won’t act against a use of weapons of mass destruction, Iran will surely believe that we will not act against its nuclear program. And once Iran has a nuclear breakout, its nuclear warheads could hit the United States in less than two years.
Their second argument is based on enforcing the taboo against the use of chemical weapons:
U.S. troops benefit from this standard. And while some note, fairly, that innocent civilians are no less dead from conventional artillery than from chemical weapons, the key difference is scale. Conventional weapons can cause only so many casualties. With chemical weapons, what kills hundreds today can kill tens of thousands tomorrow.
Their final argument is this:
[O]ur allies are being weakened and our enemies emboldened. Israel, our closest ally in the region, faces an existential threat from Iran and uncertainty in Egypt. The last thing Israel needs is Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the march. Jordan, a close Arab ally and Israel’s partner in peace, is being destabilized by a massive influx of Syrian refugees. Turkey, our NATO ally, faces a similar refugee crisis.
Meanwhile, our enemies act with impunity. Iran and Hezbollah are sending Assad thousands of ground troops and weaponry to fight the rebels. Their involvement has turned the tide in Assad’s favor in recent months. Russia continues to side with these rogue states and terrorist organizations, following Vladimir Putin’s pattern of gratuitous and unpunished affronts to U.S. interests.
Reps. Cotton and Pompeo acknowledge that Obama may not execute a sufficiently forceful response. But they urge their fellow legislators not to vote for a guaranteed insufficient response (namely none).
One can vote for a use-of-force resolution yet preserve the right — indeed, the duty — to critique how the president employs such force. After all, we have one commander in chief at a time, and the United States is weakened if our presidency is weakened. No matter the president’s party or his past failures, all Americans should want, and help, him to succeed when it comes to our national security.