Sunday, May 27, 2018
Opinion

Column: Don't get involved in Syria's sectarian war

‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend." We've heard this idiom so many times it might be easy to assume it's always true.

It is not.

This is the situation in which we find ourselves with Syria, where for two years rebels have clashed with government forces run by dictator Bashar Assad. His regime is unquestionably evil, and he has committed atrocities against his own people. He has the support of Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.

Anyone would be better than Assad, right?

That seems to be the thinking of those on both sides of the aisle who support increasing American involvement in the civil war in Syria. Many members of my own party criticized President Barack Obama for not acting sooner in Syria, and cheered him when he announced he would begin providing support for the Syrian rebels.

However, the belief that "anyone would be better" is not only dangerous, but also simply wrong.

In fact, we know that al-Qaida has successfully infiltrated the Syrian rebels, and that a long-standing Syrian terrorist organization, al-Nusrah, fights alongside them. Supporting them would be to support the same evil terrorist organizations we have been fighting for more than a decade, who attacked us on 9/11, and whom we've battled in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have taken the lives of thousands of Americans, civilians and troops alike.

Senior administration officials have told me that they cannot give any assurance that arms we provide to the rebels will not end up in the hands of al-Qaida. So what is our endgame?

Why should America involve itself in a sectarian civil war in Syria? Which side are we on — Sunni or Shiite? Why send arms to rebels knowing they will wind up in the hands of al-Qaida? Why spend American treasure or risk American lives to escalate a war in which neither side can be counted as an ally? How is this in our national interest?

If the president sincerely believes we must help one group of bad guys defeat another group of bad guys in a Syrian civil war, he needs to come to Congress and make that case. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I'm eager to listen. I want him to explain to Congress and the American people: What is our mission? What is our strategy to achieve those objectives? And what is our exit strategy?

If he can answer these questions and convince us as a Congress, then I'd be a good soldier and take the case to my constituents. After all, this is what the Founding Fathers wanted. Waging war in this country was never meant to fall wholly on the shoulders of one person.

If he can't, or simply won't, make that case, then Congress needs to take a stand and assert our authority as the only branch of government with the authority to declare war.

I have introduced legislation with Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to do just that. Our legislation would prevent the president from supplying arms or any other form of support to the rebels, al-Qaida or any other warring faction in Syria, unless he receives explicit congressional authorization to do so.

This bill, the "Congressional Accountability and Oversight in Syria Act," would further prohibit the administration from taking any military action without congressional authorization, consistent with the War Powers Act.

The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria is tragic, but pumping more arms into the fight may only drag out and worsen the carnage. Even if the rebels succeed, we may only create a power vacuum for a new regime controlled by our al-Qaida enemies.

There is, in all likelihood, no happy ending in this civil war waged between Shiite and Sunni, Hezbollah and al-Qaida. If there's a good case to spend U.S. blood and treasure in this no-win situation, the president needs to make it.

Until then, Congress needs to make clear — no arms for rebels backed by al-Qaida, and no American military action in Syria, without our authorization. Because sometimes, the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, represents Florida's 17th district, which includes part of Hillsborough County, and serves on the House Intelligence and Appropriations committees. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18