Congress should approve the use of military force against Syria because U.S. credibility depends on it, say former Sens. Joe Lieberman, and Jon Kyl.
To be sure, President Barack Obama hasn't handled the Syrian crisis well, they write in The Wall Street Journal.
He has no broad strategy for the country and hasn't done enough to make the case for intervention against President Bashar Assad's regime, the duo says.
"But none of this should blind us from a larger truth: Regardless of how we got here, failure to authorize military force against Assad now will have far-reaching and profoundly harmful consequences for American national security," state Kyl and Lieberman, now co-chairmen of the American Enterprise Institute's American Internationalism Project.
Arizona Republican Kyl served three terms; Lieberman was elected from Connecticut in 1989 but left the party in 2006 after being defeated in a primary. He then won election as an Independent. Both men reired last year.
"This is no longer just about the conflict in Syria or even the Middle East. It is about American credibility," they wrote. "Are we a country that our friends can trust and our enemies fear? Or are we perceived as a divided and dysfunctional superpower in retreat, whose words and warnings are no longer meaningful?"
U.S. power is what keeps the peace in a half-dozen hotspots around the world, protecting our allies, the pair says.
"Opposition to limited intervention in Syria now is an invitation for much bigger and more devastating wars that will break out if America is seen as withdrawing from the world," they write.
"Most immediately, failure to authorize a strike will be a green light for Assad's most important ally and our most dangerous enemy in the Middle East — Iran — to speed toward nuclear weapons."
The impact, they contend, would spread to Asia, where allies such as Japan and South Korea would worry about the reliability of the United States in helping protect them against North Korea and China, the duo writes.
A vote by Congress against military action in Syria also would help Russian President Vladimir Putin, encouraging him to "flex his muscles against Russia's neighbors," they say.
Meanwhile, "authorizing force against Assad doesn't have to mean giving the Obama administration a blank check," the former senators write. "On the contrary, we hope Congress will seize the opportunity to press the White House to develop a smarter, stronger and more accountable Syria strategy."
That includes keeping al-Qaida out of Syria, working for an end to the country's civil war, keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands and avoiding the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground, Kyl and Lieberman say.
"Despite the complexities of the conflict in Syria, the mistakes of the past, and the difficulties and drawbacks associated with anything we do in the Middle East, the most dangerous course of action at this juncture would be inaction."
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