The Syrian Debate and the U.S. Democratic Process

Posted: Sep 06, 2013 3:15 PM

President Obama made the calculated decision last Saturday to take the question of military action in Syria to Congress, despite his assertion that he was in no way required to do so.

Since then, Members of Congress, White House officials, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the American people have devoted the past week to fervent deliberation – each day, each hour, producing new op-eds, talking points, and arguments for or against U.S. involvement.

Earlier this week, Townhall’s Guy Benson reported that numerous national polls revealed deep concern among the American public in response to possible military intervention, with a clear across-the-board majority seeking no military action at all. A recent article had this to say:

Recent polls released over the past week have made it clear Americans are war-weary and skeptical of President Obama’s requests for military airstrikes against the Syrian government. Across several different question wordings, Americans clearly and consistently oppose taking military action, including airstrikes, against Syria. Despite this, Americans feel compelled to respond to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people. At the same time, Americans are not clear what military intervention would accomplish and fear that airstrikes today could eventually lead to U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.

In addition, the week’s latest whip reports show an overwhelming majority of Congressional lawmakers are opposed to the President's proposal or are likely to lean no on the upcoming vote. You can check out the various breakdowns from the Washington Post and The Hill online.

This has prompted the President to cancel his scheduled California fundraising trip, in another attempt to sell Congress on his agenda…but as of this morning, Congressional whispers reveal this might be too little, too late.

Despite the Administration’s “effort” to make a cogent case to the public and Congress and present a stronger, unified American front to the international community, it is no surprise that President Obama flatly rejected answering questions at Friday’s press conference in Russia concerning his course of action if Congress was not to pass an authorization.

After being confronted by a reporter for his elusive response to a question concerning his intent to move forward without Congressional approval, Obama said, “Right. And you’re not getting a direct response.”

He then went on to say that while it is the job of the country's federally elected officials to listen to their constituents, it is ultimately their responsibility to make tough decisions for the good of the people.

“…Each member of Congress is gonna have to decide, if I think it’s the right thing to do for America’s national security and the world’s national security, then how do I vote?

And you know what? That’s -- that’s what you’re supposed to do as a member of Congress. Ultimately, you listen to your constituents, but you’ve also got to make some decisions about what you believe is right for America.

And that’s the same for me as president of the United States. There are a whole bunch of decisions that I make that are unpopular, as you well know.”

Full remarks from the St. Petersburg’s press conference are found below:

So…what does this mean for the democratic process in the United States? Are we putting on a show of deliberative democracy, where the American people take extra steps to express their will to their elected officials, but at the end of the day, the political trump calls pulls all? Never mind that potential hypocrisy will resonate even deeper on an international stage that’s been privy to every escalating development of this situation. What can the American people do when faced with the question of renewed Middle Eastern conflict, an on-the-fence Congress, and a President who’s well-versed in moving against the tide of public sentiment?

We do what we can to uphold the democratic process; and right now, that means engaging our elected officials in any and every way possible.

A Congressional aide in the House told Townhall, “We have been getting anywhere from 50 to 100 calls a day for the last week, with the overwhelming majority of those callers asking the Congressman to oppose the president's proposed U.S. military involvement in Syria. We're getting calls from all over the state, not just our Congressional district.”

Whether you are for or against action in Syria, now is the time to let your voice be heard. You can find the contact information for your senator or representative at or by entering your zip code in the upper right-hand corner.

Only time will tell how this situation plays out; but the example we set in determining our resolution is just as important, if not extremely more meaningful and telling of the American character, than the resolution itself.

Recommended Townhall Video