If Obama did launch an air war on ISIS in Syria, our de facto ally and principal beneficiary of those strikes would be the same Syrian regime that Obama and John Kerry wanted to bomb a year ago, until the American people told them no and Congress refused to vote them the authority.
For such reasons, the demand of Sens. Tim Kaine and Rand Paul -- that before Obama takes us back to war in Iraq, or into a new war in Syria, Congress must debate and authorize this war -- is a constitutional and political imperative.
The questions Congress needs to answer are obvious and numerous.
Who exactly is our enemy? ISIS only, or Assad, Hezbollah and Iran as well? Will our involvement be restricted to air power -- fighter-bombers, gunships, cruise missiles, drones? Or should the president be authorized to send U.S. ground troops to fight?
If we are to be restricted to air power, is it to be confined to Iraq, or can it be used in Syria -- and against Assad as well as ISIS?
If U.S. combat troops cannot be used, what are the prospects of expelling ISIS from Iraq? And if we should drive them out, what is the probability they will come back as soon as we leave, especially if we have left them in control of northern Syria?
Is annihilation of ISIS the only permanent solution? How long and bloody a war would that require?
Will the president be authorized to coordinate war planning with Tehran? And if Assad is to become our de facto ally, should we end our support for the Free Syrian Army and negotiate an armistice and amnesty for the FSA?
Congress must be forced to debate and vote on this war, first, so we can hold them accountable for what is to come. Second, so we can force them to come to consensus on just what kind of outcome in this region is acceptable, and attainable, and at what cost.
What will victory look like? What will be the cost in blood and treasure? How long are we prepared to fight this war, an end to which does not today seem to be anywhere in sight?
How reasonable is it to expect that the Kurdish peshmerga and an Iraqi Army that fled Kirkuk, Fallujah and Mosul, will be able to recapture the Sunni regions of Iraq?
Finally, why is this our fight, 6,000 miles away, and not theirs?