The Constitutional Crisis that Syria could create

So the situation with regards to Syria is this-the president has committed himself to military action. Bowing to political pressure, he will ask for Congress’ permission first, but seems likely to act with or without Congressional approval.  Traditional coalitions of Republicans vs Democrats, anti-war vs pro-intervention have been fractured, and both sides are now launching a full court pressure to sway the vote next week.

Here’s what hasn’t been widely discussed-a Congressional vote against military action in Syria could create a Constitutional crisis in the United States military that will be a lose-lose scenario for every American. (H/T to Donald Sensing for putting the dots together)

The scenario is this; Congress votes against the use of military force in Syria by a clear margin.  President Obama, his reputation on the line, repeats his statement from last week, saying that he has the authority to direct the military to attack a foreign threat, regardless of what Congress decides.  President Obama gives the order for US commanders in the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea to launch the attack.

What does a 3 or 4 star general or admiral do? We take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution, not to the president.  We swear to follow the orders of the commander in chief, but Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically states that we are duty bound to follow only lawful orders.  If senior military commanders decided the order to attack was illegal without Congress’ permission, they would have to refuse to carry out their orders, which should cause every American to shudder.

It’s tempting for some conservatives to see any defeat for the president as a good thing.  But as Bill Kristol pointed out over the weekend referring to a post at First Things, a loss for an American president on the world stage is a loss for America.  US generals refusing to carry out strike orders in Syria would be a tremendous loss for American credibility, and would open the question of soldiers questioning orders.  Unlike the one or two at a time military war protesters or supposed conscientious objectors for Iraq and Afghanistan, generals and admirals command thousands of men and women. Their refusal to carry out an order from the president would bring chaos into the military, be destructive to morale, and put junior officers in a position of having to decide whether to follow their immediate commanders, or someone higher up the chain.

Whether or not the US should use military force in Syria is likely a generation defining question; a turning point in American history that will be written about in our history books decades from now.  But conservatives need to understand that there are consequences no matter what decision Congress come to.  In short-we are in a terrible situation, and there is no good option, only options that are less bad than others.

Comments wecome at Foreign and Domestic.

All opinions expressed above are still mine only.