Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul Split On U.S. Military Intervention In Syria

Sen. Marco Rubio

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) finally issued his position yesterday on possible U.S. military action in Syria after many of his Senate colleagues had already issued their positions within the last week. 

Rubio, who once was the darling of the Tea Party but has since fallen out of favor over immigration and other political positions, has adopted a foreign policy stand more inline with the political establishment, neoconservative Republicans.

"The United States has significant national interests at stake in the conflict in Syria.  First, Assad is a close ally and supporter of the Iranian regime, Rubio said in a statement.  "He has allowed Syria to be used as a staging ground and way station for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Second, an unstable Syria threatens to become the premier operational area in the world from which jihadis can train, plan and carry out attacks against our allies in the region including Israel and even the United States."

Sen. Rand Paul
Meanwhile, libertarian-leaning U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a potential rival to Rubio for the Republican nomination for President in 2016, questions the justification for U.S. military intervention.

"The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States and victory by either side will not necessarily bring in to power people friendly to the United States," said Paul in a statement.  "The United States should condemn the use of chemical weapons. We should ascertain who used the weapons and we should have an open debate in Congress over whether the situation warrants U.S. involvement. The Constitution grants the power to declare war to Congress not the President."

Although Republicans are split on military intervention, Rubio does have U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) as an ally in support of  intervention.  "It's appropriate to take military action with NATO and our regional allies," Nelson said earlier this week.  "Inaction would only lead to greater suffering and instability in the region and would further embolden Assad."

Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge), whose heavily Republican congressional district in Brevard County also has an active libertarian/Tea Party contingent, posted an image of a missile with a circle-slash no symbol on his Facebook page along with a letter he signed to President Obama which states, in part:

"While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets. Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the constitution. 

Mr. President, in the case of military operations in Libya you stated that authorization from Congress was not required because our military was not engaged in “hostilities.” In addition, an April 1, 2011, memorandum to you from your Office of Legal Counsel concluded:

“…President Obama could rely on his constitutional power to safeguard the national interest by directing the anticipated military operations in Libya—which were limited in their nature, scope, and duration—without prior congressional authorization.”

We view the precedent this opinion sets, where “national interest” is enough to engage in hostilities without congressional authorization, as unconstitutional. If the use of 221 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 704 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and 42 Predator Hellfire missiles expended in Libya does not constitute “hostilities,” what does?"

Both Posey and Paul appear to have public opinion on their side when it comes to opposing U.S. military intervention in Syria.  According to a Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted last week, 60 percent of Americans are against U.S. intervention in Syria, with only 9 percent supporting intervention.

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