We should not go to war in Syria

WASHINGTON – Right now, the American people are having a national discussion regarding President Obama’s plan to take military action in Syria. The President has asked Congress to give him authorization to begin a bombing campaign. I believe Northern Michigan’s citizens have grown tired of war and are not interested in getting involved in another nation’s civil war. That’s why I’m planning to vote against the President’s plan to get involved in the Syrian conflict if it comes to the House floor.

But this debate is not about my beliefs – it’s about the views and concerns of many people in Northern Michigan and across this country. The response I have heard in Michigan’s First District has been strongly on the side of not using military force. Additionally, after reading the legislation, I have come to the conclusion that President Obama’s plan is unrealistic, and that military strikes on Syria could do significant harm to American interests at home and abroad.

The loss of innocent life and violence we’ve seen in Syria has been heartbreaking. The images of children being gassed to death in their own communities are truly deplorable. Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is clearly an adversary to freedom and no friend to the United States. But, I don’t think Northern Michigan’s citizens believe military action by the United States is the solution to improve this situation.

President Obama has worked hard to present a case to Congress and the American people as to why taking military action in Syria is the right thing to do. But America is not buying his sales pitch. We are not seeing an attack on Syria being in the best interest of the United States. The President made a statement last year about Syria crossing a “red line” and now has been forced to try to back up his own comments with military force. But a misstatement by the President is not a rationale to attack Syria. And the President trying to save face is not a reason to put our soldiers into another war.

Our nation has now endured a decade of conflict in the Middle East. Debate over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will go on for years to come, but we can all recognize that the conflicts have cost our nation the lives of thousands of brave men and women. We have watched solemnly as flag-draped coffins have returned from the front lines and we have seen moms and dads have to bury their children for the past 10 years. That tragic reality, in combination with the fact that we have spent billions of dollars we don’t have on these wars, have made the American people rightfully weary about getting involved in another conflict.

My belief is that we should be reducing our military presence overseas, not increasing it. That’s why since coming to Congress, I have voted to reduce America’s military forces in Afghanistan and opposed the intervention in Libya. I would rather see us put more focus on fixing things in this country instead of using our resources in other parts of the world.

As the father of a veteran and a doctor who worked at a VA hospital for 20 years, I know the kind of hard working and selfless men and women in our armed forces. They are America’s finest. Like so many in our country, I have no doubt that our military would be able to successfully complete any mission that we asked them to undertake. They have fought for us, and I believe we should serve them by not putting more of our troops in harm’s way.

This debate over using military force in Syria is important. Use of our armed forces should never be a decision that’s taken lightly or for political purposes. While I have deep respect for the President’s Constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief, this is a debate that should be carried out in the open with input from citizens throughout our nation. I am hopeful that President Obama will respect the decision made by Congress, listen to the American people, and not get our nation entangled in another conflict in the Middle East.

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Rep. Dan Benishek is a general surgeon from Iron River and is serving in his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.