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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Cole Op-Ed in Tulsa World: Syria intervention not supported by American people

September 12, 2013
Weekly Columns

Tulsa World - Congressman Tom Cole 

After the recent chemical attack in Syria, the American people expressed their strong opposition to the military strike proposed by President Obama. Through phone calls, emails, letters and town hall meetings, my Oklahoma constituents made it abundantly clear to me that they were strongly and unequivocally opposed to any U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. 

When the president first proposed military intervention in Syria, I participated in numerous briefings - some of which were classified - and studied all of the relevant information regarding the situation before firmly deciding against authorizing military action. I remain strongly opposed to involving our military in the conflict, and I am pleased that - for the time being anyway - - the president is no longer seeking a vote on the issue in Congress. 

As we watched the situation unfold, it became evident that the violence in Syria is a civil war, a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and a religious war. In this civil war, it is difficult to spot the "good guys" or determine if they even exist. 

Since the United States was not attacked and neither were our allies, I was not convinced that American intervention was necessary or warranted. 

Furthermore, few countries or groups even called upon our nation to engage in a military strike. I believe this is because they were not persuaded that the president's proposal was likely to be effective or in the best interests of the region. 

The whole situation left me wondering why we would ever become involved in Syria. 

In making their case to Congress and the American people, Obama administration officials stated that any military action would not be intended to change the regime or to alter the balance of power between the government and the opposition. 

Intervening under such circumstances without clear policy or military strategy is ill-advised, and I am strongly opposed to it. 

Such action would only serve as a diplomatic gesture, but one that recklessly risks the lives of our men and women in uniform. Using our military to make a point is unfair to the brave individuals who volunteered to defend the United States, and it is an inappropriate use of American military power. 

Frankly, if military action is taken in Syria, against an Arab government to protect an Arab population, America should insist that other Arab governments take the lead. But the United States has no business being there. 

More important, Americans were not convinced that this policy is wise, prudent or without risk. When a country is so united on such an important issue, we all have an obligation to make sure those views are taken into account. 

After the president addressed the nation on Tuesday night, I was pleased to hear that he will not force a vote on Syria or authorize a military strike in Syria. It shows that this time he is listening to the American people and their desire to stay out of another war. 

Unfortunately, the president's weak performance reveals a vacillating, indecisive commander-in-chief who cannot build or lead an effective military campaign or garner national support for that so-called plan. This reality is not only bad for our president, but it is dangerous for America and our allies.

Online: Tulsa World