President Barack Obama wants Congress to grant him the power to go to war with Syria, for as long as and in any way he chooses. Now it’s up to the American people, as it was to the British, to say no — we don’t buy it.

Even if Bashar al-Assad’s regime is responsible for the nerve-gas atrocities, the United States shouldn’t become embroiled in what increasingly looks like a fight between rebel forces influenced by al-Qaeda and a brutal dictatorship.

Obama’s stated reasons for attacking Syria aren’t convincing.

Zimmerman-Syria-Patrick Feller

Patrick Feller/Flickr

What’s the point of international prohibitions, Obama asks, like the ban against use of chemical weapons, if they aren’t enforced? And what message do we send dictators if they can murder with impunity?

The answers to both of those questions are clear. Our nation isn’t the world’s policeman, and we have no right to engage in acts of war against countries that haven’t attacked us, supposedly to enforce international law or send “messages” to dictators.

Obama’s sense of outrage is selective. The United States and 152 other countries also signed an international treaty against torture. But Obama decided not to enforce that treaty or U.S. law, which also bans torture, against members of the Bush administration who violated the ban.

The world is filled with murderous dictators, and over the decades America has installed or supported many of them “for reasons of state.” In the last month, the generals who overthrew the elected government in Egypt have slain more than a thousand peaceful demonstrators. Yet we don’t hear Obama insisting they need to be punished by U.S. military force, nor does he say that we must intervene in the affairs of all dictatorial countries.

The real point seems to be rescuing Obama’s “credibility.” We have to attack because we said we would and now we can’t back down. It’s a foreign policy version of the Stand Your Ground laws.

But pressing for a negotiated settlement would be the best thing we could do for Syria. We shouldn’t launch attacks that would almost certainly kill and maim large numbers of innocent civilians.

Things are not likely to go as smoothly as Obama imagines. What if, as is all too likely, Assad were to use chemical weapons after a U.S. attack? We know the answer: Obama will feel obliged to escalate. That’s the logic of war.

The resolution Obama asks Congress to approve contains no ending point. It says: “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate” in connection with the Syrian problem. That includes anything from missiles to bombs to military “advisers” to troops on the ground to using our own weapons of mass destruction.

The British people were vocal in their opposition to intervening in Syria. Their Parliament said no, and their government backed down.

Now it’s our turn to speak up, to insist that Congress vote down Obama’s blank check, and to save us from yet another horrific war.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Mitchell Zimmerman

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney who lives in Northern California. He supplements his work as a Silicon Valley intellectual property lawyer with pro bono work on behalf of the underrepresented. Distributed via OtherWords (

OtherWords commentaries are free to re-publish in print and online — all it takes is a simple attribution to To get a roundup of our work each Wednesday, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.

(Note: Images credited to Getty or Shutterstock are not covered by our Creative Commons license. Please license these separately if you wish to use them.)