People demonstrate against US intervention in Syria in front of the White House in Washington on September 3, 2013.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Liberals see no good choices in Syria crisis


The Obama Administration is continuing its lobbying blitz for military intervention in Syria, garnering support from Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, alongside key Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

But fighting against those clamoring for military strikes following Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own people is a loud chorus of progressives vehemently opposed to raining down U.S. missiles on Syria.

Their argument goes something like this:  While the chemical attack against Syrians is horrifying and heart-wrenching, a military strike may not deter Assad from acting the same way again, and may inflame the Arab world against the U.S. The United States may well get drawn into Syria’s civil war. If the U.S. is stepping in on humanitarian grounds, then why is the response military intervention, which almost certainly ensures that scores more innocent civilians will die? And, if the U.S. is really for enforcing the international norm against such atrocious weapons, more international powers should be on board with the effort. America does not need to be the world’s policeman.

Liberal lawmakers, progressive groups, and pundits have made those arguments this week, even as Team Obama argues that inaction will cause more bloodshed.

Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, a leading opponent of the strikes, created a website,,  calling on Congress to vote against any attack.

“There’s no vital national security involved.,” the petition states. “We are not the world’s policeman, nor its judge and jury. Our own needs in America are great, and they come first. The death of civilians is always regrettable, and civil war is regrettable, but no Americans have been attacked, and no American allies have been attacked.”

Liberal Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland says 99% of the calls coming into his office are against attacking Syria. And Democrat Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey said he’d likely be voting against a resolution to strike, warning it would be a mistake to go at this without more support. “A single nation can’t enforce international standards against a single nation,” he told MSNBC this week, adding the more the White House answers questions, the more skeptical he becomes.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is also coming out against Obama’s desire to strike. The major political action committee sent a letter to Senate and House Dems to vote against any resolution involving U.S. intervention.

“You now face a decision that involves life and death,” the memo reads. “This decision also involves billions of dollars. And it will send a signal to your constituents and the world about our nation’s morals and our ability to make strategic, goal-oriented decisions. This historic moment must transcend political party.” Included are results of a survey from 57,000 progressives, the majority saying they oppose military action in Syria.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes said he also doesn’t think the U.S. should be sending missiles into Syria.

“Those of us who oppose military intervention both for practical reasons and on principle, need to have the moral courage to stare into the gaping maw of horror that is the Syrian civil war and the Assad regime and the murder of hundreds of innocent children and say:  We can’t make this situation better. We just can’t,” he wrote.

Host Chris Matthews also had major concerns if the U.S. attacks. “Doesn’t Syria then make a move on Israel? It’s already said pretty much that, saying that a US attack will lead to a wider, regional war…What does Hezbollah do? They are the decisive ally Syria has had. What stops Hezbollah from firing away at Israel with its tens of thousands of conventional rockets?” he asked.

Libertarians are finding themselves in agreement with their liberal counterparts in rejecting intervention, with politicians including Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, both arguing against any use of military force. Opposition to war has put Paul, Amash, Holt, and Cummings in the same camp. Progressives and libertarians last banded together earlier this year to rail against the White House and the National Security Agency’s secret spying on U.S. citizens.

“To be sure, there is a tragedy of a horrific nature in Syria, but I am unconvinced that a limited Syrian bombing campaign will achieve its intended goals. I frankly think that bombing Syria increases the likelihood of additional gas attacks, may increase attacks on Israel and Turkey, may increase civilian deaths, may increase instability in the Middle East and may draw Russia and Iran further into this civil war,” said Paul.


Liberals see no good choices in Syria crisis