Ted Cruz makes the case against attacking Syria

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to make the case against military action in Syria.  He began by citing two major arguments against President Obama’s proposed intervention: “One, because I think the Administration is proceeding with the wrong objective; and two, because they have no viable plan for success.”

Cruz said the proposed attack would not have the objective of “defending U.S. national security,” protecting American lives, or defending our allies.  Instead, it has been explicitly framed as a military intervention to defend “amorphous international norms,” which Cruz does not see as a proper role for the U.S. military.

He suggested some other ways the United States could express disapproval of Assad’s gruesome tactics, such as threatening to cut U.S. aid to Iraq unless the Iraqis stop allowing Iranian supply flights to pass through their airspace en route to Syria.  Cruz also advised forcing a U.N. Security Council vote to condemn the Assad regime, in the full knowledge that Russia and China would veto the motion, and respond with various measures to punish and isolate those nations for standing with the Syrian dictator.  It does seem foolish to allow Russia to effectively veto U.N. condemnation of Syria with the mere threat of a veto.

Cruz expressed his misgivings about the Syrian rebellion, pointing out that just because Bashar Assad is a bloodthirsty dictator doesn’t automatically transform his opponents into noble, “moderate” warriors for freedom and democracy.  He cited intelligence reports showing that “of the nine major rebel forces in Syria, at least seven appear to have significant ties to al-Qaeda.”

ABC host George Stephanopoulos mentioned the angry reactions from Syrian war hawks Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to suggestions that America would be serving as “al-Qaeda’s air force” by intervening in Syria.  It’s telling that the Syria hawks don’t seem to have much beyond their outrage to offer as a response.  McCain’s breezy assertions that everyone else is wrong about the brutality and terrorist ties of the rebels are particularly unconvincing.

Cruz discussed the legal status of a hypothetical executive order to attack Syria in defiance of Congress, noting that it would be very different for Obama to strike after Congress affirmatively rejected the authority to make war, rather than acting before Congress has a chance to vote.  He also noted that executive orders for military action are supposed to come in response to clear and immediate threats to America and her interests, a standard clearly not met by the Syrian civil war.

Asked if it would be an impeachable offense, Cruz said it would be “contrary to the Constitution,” but wanted to set politics aside and focus on guiding America through dangerous times.  “I would like to support our Commander-in-Chief,” he said.  “I would like to see our Commander-in-Chief focused on protecting U.S. national security.”

He thought the Syrian crisis was distracting America’s attention from the real threat of international terrorism, mentioning the attack on Benghazi, whose one-year anniversary is coming up.  No one has been brought to justice for this attack, and President Obama seems primarily interested in burying the issue to minimize domestic political fallout, rather than hunting down and punishing the perpetrators.  That seems like a more pressing concern for U.S. national security than diving into the ugly chaos of a civil war, where roughly one percent of the casualties have been attributed to chemical weapons.