With yesterday’s news of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) offering their support of President Obama’s call for military intervention in Syria, the GOP is poised for another intra-party battle, highlighting the complexity surrounding a possible invasion and the fracture between the Tea Party and old-guard wings of the Republican Party.
Despite tweeting a week ago when Boehner said, “There are important questions the President must answer if considering intervention in Syria,” the House Speaker has apparently had his questions answered and is now firmly behind the administration’s plans to use military force in the Middle Eastern country.
Cantor quickly followed suit, stating, “America has a compelling national security interest to prevent and respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction, especially by a terrorist state such as Syria, and to prevent further instability in a region of vital interest to the United States.”
The House leadership is giving President Obama the support needed to make the case to a divided Congress that military intervention is essential to preventing bloodshed and protecting the interests of the United States.
But at what expense?
Earlier today, President Barack Obama admitted Syria posed no imminent threat — agreeing with a point made by Tea Party darling Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
“We may not be directly, imminently threatened by what’s taking place in…Syria…in the short term, but our long-term national security will be impacted in a profound way,” President Obama said at a press conference in Sweden today, providing another vague justification for intervening in the conflict.
Many of the rank-and-file Republicans — in opposition to the Leadership’s position — aren’t convinced.
On the front lines of this growing criticism are the usual libertarian firebrands Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Paul. Amash said he’s against striking Syria for a number of reasons, but he’s most concerned by what the President is calling a “limited attack” and having it turn into another war costing billions of dollars and U.S. lives, as reported by WWMT. After John Kerry’s refusal to rule out boots on the ground in yesterday’s Senate hearing, his concerns are valid.
While Amash’s position — that of flexing his non-interventionist muscles — is predictable, other members of the GOP, which includes a broad coalition of diverse ideological positions, are committed to voting against intervention, or are at least withholding judgment until the goals of a strike become more clearly defined.
In a sign of division at the leadership level, the GOP’s third-in-command, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), weighed in through his spokesman, Mike Long.
“Absent a clear sense of what we must do, and what the mission is, it is difficult to formulate an appropriate and effective resolution authorizing the president to use military force against the Assad regime,” Long told The Hill.
Even Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Wyoming Senate candidate, is critical of military force, stating Obama’s “amateurish approach to national security and foreign policy” would lead her to vote no on intervention.
With a military strike that would arguably do little to cripple the Assad regime and public opinion being firmly on the side of those opposing intervention, the rank-and-file Republicans in the House will be further emboldened in their efforts to defeat the President’s resolution. If this means defying House Leadership once again and providing further proof that the Republican House Conference lacks unity, then it appears this is a battle they are happy to wage.