Minus the detail about his Jesuit father, Chris Hayes sums up the reasonable opposition to Syrian intervention here. It is a position with which I mostly agree:
Now that the president has gone to Congress for authorization of a military strike in Syria, members of both houses can no longer get away with “asking questions” and second guessing: they have to declare where they stand and vote on it.So here’s where I stand: I don’t think we should send missiles into Syria. If I was in Congress I’d vote against it and I think it’s a grave mistake that will make a bad situation worse.And before I explain my reasoning let me say that I don’t think that people who disagree with me are contemptible scoundrels and warmongers.My own father, an ex-jesuit community organizer and a true moral beacon in my life thinks we should intervene and that counts for a lot in my book.That said, here’s why I think a military strike like the one being proposed is a bad idea.First of all there’s always a likelihood that we kill innocent people, a risk you run with any kind of military engagement, particularly aerial bombardment.Second, while I think the general idea of enforcing the international norm against the deployment of chemical weapons is a laudable goal, I’m skeptical this kind of strike will do that. If Assad did in fact use chemical weapons - and you’ll excuse me if the experience of Iraq makes me a wee bit reluctant to definitively state he did based solely on US intelligence. But again, if Assad as the evidence would seem to suggest did use these weapons, then he likely did so as a way of basically burning the bridge that could have let him retreat.He sent a message to supporters that the only way out is through, that he will fight to the end. And all the people included in his coalition — Syrian christians, alawites, members of the military and business elite — they are in the same bunker with him. If the rebels win, the family members of the people Assad gassed will not look kindly on his supporters.Given the fact that Assad’s fighting literally for his life, I’m not quite sure a targeted punitive strike like the one being proposed will have that much of an effect. It may slightly alter the calculation of deploying such weapons again, but even if it does, if Assad thinks he has to use chemical weapons to win … or find himself drawn and quartered, guess what he is going to do? ...
That being said, it is worth remembering that during the last Democratic administration, as President Clinton set about trying to gather support for sending troops to Kosovo, this was very much the Republican Party line (the original post from "The Poor Man Institute" has gone to digital heaven, but it's fossil remains trapped in amber here):
“You can support the troops but not the president”-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)“President…is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)“American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.”-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)“If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”-Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W. Bush“I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning…I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.”-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)“Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years”-Joe Scarborough (R-FL)“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today”-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)“Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?”-Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”-Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)“This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.”-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.”-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)
In fact, as you might or might not recall, Conservatives had such a raging hard-on to destroy Bill Clinton by any means necessary that a number of them stated publicly that their desire to run his ass out of town on a rail superseded every other consideration:
Here, for example, is what some of the Heroes of the Party of Personal Responsibility were saying exactly 12 years ago..This from a December 17, 1998 airing of the News Hour on PBSFirst, excerpts from a lively little chat between Mark Shields and Paul Gigot on the insistence by Wahabi Republicans that the frivolous and irresponsible impeachment of one William Jefferson Clinton proceed despite military action in Iraq.Remember that at this time we were being warned, daily, that the Hussein was incredibly dangerous and volatile.It began with a lot of procedural information about how long debate and rebuttal would proceed, etc. And then (with emphasis added)……ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Paul, assess for us on both sides the risks and the benefits in going ahead with this tomorrowwhile the bombing is going on.PAUL GIGOT: Well, the benefits for the Republicans are that they get it over with. They believe they have the votes, and they can put this behind them, and a lot of their members, frankly, want to get it done. The leadership, I think, also fears that if it's delayed into next week, as Lee Hamilton suggested, just wait till Monday, there will be another objection on Monday. Why not do it after Christmas, and then why not after New Year's, so let's get it done. ...ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But there are some risks, aren't there?PAUL GIGOT: Well, there is some that the Democrats are going to talk about process; they're going to talk about shackling the commander-in-chief. So this takes away from what the Republicans would like the debate to be about, which is the behavior of the president, and that's the advantage the Democrats have in this, which is they can change the subject and try to undermine this as a strictly partisan exercise pointing to the Senate down the road.…MARK SHIELDS: … But there is within the Republican House caucus a strong conservative group, and I think the only way to describe many of them is they're seized and animated by a phobia about Bill Clinton. I mean - and there's no question - they do have the votes; they want to do it; they want to get it over with; they want to get him; they don't want him to have another day without being impeached. And I'll tell you where it comes down to - you can see their attitude toward the president on foreign policy. I mean, they say is a diabolically shrewd fellow - oh, my goodness, he calibrates every move. The move to go into military action didn't change a single vote in the House on impeachment. There was no way it was going to change a vote.ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're saying the bombing hasn't made any big political difference.MARK SHIELDS: It hasn't changed a single vote in the House on either side, and I defy anybody to tell whose vote has been changed by it.…PAUL GIGOT: I think they believe that if they wait until Monday, the Democrats will find a reason not to hold the debate on Monday too. And who knows what Saddam Hussein might do and what the president might do, and so if we're going to have the debate at all this Congress, let's do it now. And if the president can do his - undertake his constitutional responsibility as commander-in-chief on the eve of impeachment, then the House should be able to do its constitutional duties, while the president is pursuing his.Listen to Bob Livingston argue that just because we had troops in harm's way in Iraq and by his reckoning had no timetable or metric to measure when or if we reach “Mission Accomplished”, that is no reason why the President should not be impeached.…REP. BOB LIVINGSTON, Speaker of the House-Designate: Do we just anticipate that the troops in the field will complete their business by Ramadan or by a time certain, or by Tuesday, or by Christmas Day, or by New Year's Day, or by two weeks into January? How do we assess when that mission is going to be complete? There's no way to know when the troops will have completed their mission. There's no way to know whether or not Saddam Hussein in his mindless self-absorption decides to lash out at American troops, at British troops, at Kuwait, at his neighbors anywhere in the Middle East. We can't anticipate what Saddam Hussein will do, and yet, we cannot refrain from advancing the people's business under this critical issue.KWAME HOLMAN: Livingston reminded Democrats that when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the United States had troops on the ground in Vietnam.REP. BOB LIVINGSTON: And, yet, the Democrat Congress at the time undertook the responsibility of impeaching Richard Nixon, but he resigned.Now note here where Republican and veteran Duncan Hunter argues that it is an insult to the troops NOT to proceed with impeachment and work straight through the Christmas holidays if necessary...KWAME HOLMAN: Republican leaders backed up their argument with the support of several of their members who are veterans of foreign wars.REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) California: You know, there's one term, I think, that is common to both this House and to our military, and that term is duty. We refer to it often, and it's clear now that our uniformed people are carrying out their duty in difficult circumstances to defend the liberties and the security of this country.They're doing that so that we can perform our duty. And our duty is to carry out the Constitution.KWAME HOLMAN: But Minority Whip David Bonior said there was another reason Democrats were blocking the Republicans' proposed rules of debate.REP. DAVID BONIOR, Minority Whip: And that is the inability of this side of the aisle to have the chance to offer a reasonable alternative, a censure alternative, which the majority of Americans now support. It is unfair, it is wrong, there is something about this whole process that shows a lack of judgment, a lack of proportionality, a lack of common sense…Then there was this jumble of superpatiot doubletalk, all but one of which is from the WaPo...Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.):And we all share in the emotional trauma getting back to our subject of this constitutional crisis in which we are ensnared. But this cup cannot pass us by, we can't avoid it, we took an oath of office, Mr. Speaker, to uphold the Constitution under our democratic system of government, separation of powers, and checks and balances.And we must fulfill that oath and send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. …Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.):How can we expect a Boy Scout to honor his oath if elected officials don't honor theirs? How can we expect a business executive to honor a promise when the chief executive abandons his or hers?Rep. Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.):How did this great nation of the 1990s come to be? It all happened Mr. Speaker, because freedom works. . . . But freedom, Mr. Speaker, freedom depends upon something. The rule of law. And that's why this solemn occasion is so important. For today we are here to defend the rule of law. According to the evidence presented by our fine Judiciary Committee, the president of the United States has committed serious transgressions.…Mr. Speaker, a nation of laws cannot be ruled by a person who breaks the law.Otherwise, it would be as if we had one set of rules for the leaders and another for the governed. We would have one standard for the powerful, the popular and the wealthy, and another for everyone else.This would belie our ideal that we have equal justice under the law. That would weaken the rule of law and leave our children and grandchildren with a very poor legacy…Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI):The framers of the Constitution devised an elaborate system of checks and balances to ensure our liberty by making sure that no person, institution or branch of government became so powerful that a tyranny could be established in the United States of America. Impeachment is one of the checks the framers gave the Congress to prevent the executive or judicial branches from becoming corrupt or tyrannical.Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas):When someone is elected president, they receive the greatest gift possible from the American people, their trust. To violate that trust is to raise questions about fitness for office. My constituents often remind me that if anyone else in a position of authority -- for example, a business executive, a military officer of a professional educator -- had acted as the evidence indicates the president did, their career would be over. The rules under which President Nixon would have been tried for impeachment had he not resigned contain this statement: "The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than the average citizen in the United States."Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.):Many have asked why we are even here in these impeachment proceedings. They have asked why we can't just rebuke the president and move on. That's a reasonable question. And I certainly understand the emotions behind that question. I want to move on. Every member of this committee wants to move on. We all agree with that.But the critical question is this: Do we move on under the Constitution, or do we move on by turning aside from the Constitution? Do we move on in faithfulness to our own oath to support and defend the Constitution, or do we go outside the Constitution because it seems more convenient and expedient?...Why are we here? We are here because we have a system of government based on the rule of law, a system of government in which no one -- no one -- is above the law. We are here because we have a constitution.A constitution is often a most inconvenient thing. A constitution limits us when we would not be limited. It compels us to act when we would not act. But our Constitution, as all of us in this room acknowledge, is the heart and soul of the American experiment. ……We would all be spared embarrassment, indignity and discomfort. But there would be a high cost if we followed that course of action. Something would be lost.Respect for the law would be subverted, and the foundation of our Constitution would be eroded.…Rep. Bob Ingliss (R-S.C.):I think is important to point out here is that we have a constitutional obligation, a constitutional obligation to act. And there are lots of folks who would counsel, Listen, let's just move along. It's sort of the Clinton so-what defense. So what? I committed perjury. So what? I broke the law. Let's just move along. I believe we've got a constitutional obligation to act.Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.):Mr. Chairman, this is a somber occasion. I am here because it is my constitutional duty, as it is the constitutional duty of every member of this committee, to follow the truth wherever it may lead. Our Founding Fathers established this nation on a fundamental yet at the time untested idea that a nation should be governed not by the whims of any man but by the rule of law. Implicit in that idea is the principle that no one is above the law, including the chief executive…Mr. Chairman, we must ask ourselves what our failure to uphold the rule of law will say to the nation, and most especially to our children, who must trust us to leave them a civilized nation where justice is respected.Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.):You know, there are people out all across America every day that help define the nation's character, and they exercise common-sense virtues, whether it's honesty, integrity, promise-keeping, loyalty, respect, accountability, they pursue excellence, they exercise self-discipline. There is honor in a hard day's work. There's duty to country. Those are things that we take very seriously.So those are things that the founders also took seriously. Yet every time I reflect upon the wisdom of the founding fathers, I think their wisdom was truly amazing. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to escape the tyranny of a king. They understood the nature of the human heart struggles between good and evil.So the founders created a system of checks and balances and accountability. …Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.):In the next few days I will cast some of the most important votes of my career. Some believe these votes could result in a backlash and have serious political repercussions. They may be right. But I will leave the analysis to others. My preeminent concern is that the Constitution be followed and that all Americans, regardless of their position in society, receive equal and unbiased treatment in our courts of law. The fate of no president, no political party, and no member of Congress merits a slow unraveling of the fabric of our constitutional structure. As John Adams said, we are a nation of laws, not of men.Our nation has survived the failings of its leaders before, but it cannot survive exceptions to the rule of law in our system of equal justice for all….Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.):I suggest impeachment is like beauty: apparently in the eye of the beholder. But I hold a different view. And it's not a vengeful one, it's not vindictive, and it's not craven. It's just a concern for the Constitution and a high respect for the rule of law. ... as a lawyer and a legislator for most of my very long life, I have a particular reverence for our legal system. It protects the innocent, it punishes the guilty, it defends the powerless, it guards freedom, it summons the noblest instincts of the human spirit.The rule of law protects you and it protects me from the midnight fire on our roof or the 3 a.m. knock on our door. It challenges abuse of authority. It's a shame "Darkness at Noon" is forgotten, or "The Gulag Archipelago," but there is such a thing lurking out in the world called abuse of authority, and the rule of law is what protects you from it…And, of course, what would any Roll of GOP Dishonor be without Republican-Citizen-Hero-and-Convicted-Felon-Number-One, Tom DeLay, weighing in via the “Bluegrass Report”Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.):I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth,justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country.
As you might recall, all of that high-minded skepticism and urgent desire to impeach at the drop of a hat, come rain or shine or war or peace because Freedom! evaporated once Republican George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States.
There is a reasonable case to be made that the United State should stay the hell out of Syria, and like Mr. Hayes, I don’t think that people who disagree with me are necessarily contemptible scoundrels and warmongers. There is also a reasonable case to be made on the parameters of this debate that the Battle of Agincourt is not the Battle of Algiers and each time a nation takes a decision to go to war, that decision should stand or fall on its own merits without the war-last-time either being ignored or being a straitjacket.
Two catastrophically-failed wars later, we find ourselves with a Republican party which has gone from vicious and venal* to outright insane. Who are completely open about their desire to kneecap the federal government and their willingness to take the global economy hostage as often as necessary to accomplish their ends. Who shamble around the halls Congress looking for tiniest hook hook on which to hang "Impeachment".
And while I don’t think that people who disagree with me are necessarily contemptible scoundrels and warmongers, I do know that the wood are dark and full of crazies who do not come to this table -- or any table -- in good faith.
*Thanks for the catch