By Rand Paul
In 1971, Secretary of State John Kerry famously questioned: "How can you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?" I would ask Secretary Kerry how can you ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake? That is what he would be doing if the U.S. intervened in the Syrian civil war.
While the death and destruction stemming from the Syrian civil war is difficult to watch, I believe the U.S. must exercise maximum restraint and uphold the constitutional requirement that grants Congress, not the president, the right to declare war. The president's announcement that he will seek congressional approval before unilaterally going to war is a step in the right direction.
From a strategic standpoint, there are three questions that should always be asked and sufficiently answered before going to war: What is the U.S. national interest? What is the military objective? What is the exit strategy?
We should also be skeptical of the Islamic rebels that our nation would be fighting alongside. Our knowledge of the relationship with these rebels is murky at best. What reason do we have to believe that they have America's best interest? The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. On one side, we have Assad; on the other, we have Al-Qaeda. On one side we have Islamic jihadists; on the other, we have Christians. We have priests and civilians kidnapped and killed by Islamic rebels. It seems on all sides we have chaos and it is unclear if any side will, in the end, be a friend to the United States.
Those who seek military action have an obligation to publicly address these concerns before intervening in another Middle Eastern war. Shooting first and aiming later has not worked for us in the past, and it should not be our game plan now. I will not vote to send my sons, or your sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or friends to fight for a stalemate.
There are other consequences to be reaped if we make the wrong choice here. Has the Obama administration considered the retaliation from Syria or Iran that could occur on Israel, Jordan, Turkey and our other allies in the region? I don't think those in favor of intervention realize how quickly this could spiral out of control.
Laws can be amended, repealed or replaced; lives can't be.
Of course, the sight of civilian suffering and death is heart-wrenching. No one disputes that Assad is a vile dictator. However, we must be wary that in our rush to "do something" we do not make an already bad situation worse.
It was President Obama who called for Assad's ouster before it was clear he could be ousted and who set a "red line" he didn't think Assad would cross. Should his strategic blunder now subject the American people to another endless war?
Saving this administration's "credibility" is not a good enough reason to go to war.
This week, I am going to get answers to these questions and then your representatives are expected to vote next week. I am encouraged that President Obama is fulfilling his constitutional obligation to seek authorization for any potential military action in Syria. This vote will serve as the most important decision any president or any senator must make, and it deserves vigorous debate. I will lead the fight against involving our military in a civil war in Syria. I hope this mistake can be prevented.