The American public is hearing it again – the drumbeat for intervention into a foreign land. Now it’s about Syria.
For decades, presidents have dominated the decision-making to commit American forces to battle. But today, as the country approaches another decisive moment, after a decade of problematic wars, perhaps the time has come for another decider, Congress, to enter the picture. The legislature must not just ask the tough questions but assume the leadership role. A novel idea? Not really. After all this is what the Constitution demands. Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have led the beat calling for Washington to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria to give the rebels a chance to protect themselves while bringing down the Assad regime.
Two legislators alone, however, do not represent Congress as a body. Yet the senators have helped focus the public debate: Should the United States, which controls the world’s most capable military, step up to prevent the growing slaughter that could spread across the Middle East? Or, is the danger of another quagmire so daunting that Washington should say “no way?”
If Congress endorses the no-fly zone, it must do so with the understanding that bombardment of Syria’s air defenses, aircraft and command and control – the classic method to apply a no-fly zone – may well be required. McCain is also now proposing to repeatedly crater Syrian airfields with stand-off cruise missiles, to prevent launch of government aircraft, while placing Patriot anti-aircraft rockets along the Jordanian and Turkish border to shoot down Assad’s bombers.