Arizona congressman Matt Salmon’s constituents have called his office 500 times about Syria, he tells National Review Online in an interview, but only two callers have expressed support for intervening there. “This is not hyperbole!” he says emphatically.
And Salmon himself is firmly against authorizing a strike. “I don’t see any national-security imperative for our country at all. Both sides in this equation are bad actors.” He also notes that Obama has been unable to form an international coalition and hasn’t laid out an overall objective for a missile strike. “Other than saving face for the president, I don’t understand what we would be doing,” he says.
Further, Salmon doubts the intervention will be brief. “Nobody believes this is going to be a couple surgical strikes,” he says.
Salmon agrees the dynamics of the vote are likely to mirror the July vote on an amendment from Representative Justin Amash to reign in the NSA’s broad surveillance powers, except the vote against authorizing Syrian intervention is likely to have more support. The authorization “will fail by 20 votes,” he predicts.
Salmon praised President Obama for coming to Congress for authorization, but he fears whether the president will abide by the will of the legislature. It would be a constitutional crisis if Obama overrode the will of Congress on Syria, he says, describing that scenario as the “most significant flouting of separation of powers in this nation, if this happens.”
Salmon is part of the right flank of the GOP conference, someone who is deeply frustrated with Speaker John Boehner’s unwillingness to use the upcoming continuing-resolution fight to draw a line in the sand over Obamacare funding.
He also sees the Syria fight as part of a larger battle for the heart of the GOP’s foreign-policy soul. The lessons of Iraq, but also the “past 30 or 40 years” are that “we should be a lot more cautious.” Of the Iraq War, launched by Republican president George W. Bush, he says “We’ve spent countless lives and dollars, and for what?” Salmon says that his fellow Republicans who weren’t in office during the Bush years were more likely to have learned those lessons from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than those who were in D.C. to authorize them.