In a letter to his fellow senators Monday, Republican Rand Paul urged his colleagues to vote “no” on a resolution before Congress to authorize U.S. military intervention in Syria, arguing that President Obama hasn’t made a case for taking action.
The Kentucky senator borrowed a line from former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s autobiography: “War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should have a purpose our people understand and support.” Paul wrote that he doesn’t believe Syria “passes that test.”
The lawmaker, a GOP favorite for the 2016 presidential election, isn’t alone in this opinion. A USA Today survey released Monday found that just 22 senators and 22 House members say they’ll support a U.S. strike against Syria in response to a chemical-weapons attack allegedly carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime last month. On the other side, 19 senators and 130 House members are ready to vote “no” on a resolution later this month to authorize the use of force.
Opposition to a U.S. strike against Syria stretches beyond the Beltway. The latest polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans are opposed to an attack, a significant spike from just last week, when 48 percent of citizens were opposed.
“This resolution does too much by involving us in a civil war in which there is no clearly defined American national security interest,” Paul wrote in the letter. Here, Americans seem split: 45 percent say Syria poses a threat to the U.S., while 50 percent disagree.
Paul’s letter did echo Americans’ opinions on something that is likely to dominate the conversation about Syria this week. “The president must make the case for war,” he said. Fifty-four percent of Americans seem to agree with him, saying that Obama has not explained his rationale for a strike clearly enough.
Obama plans to do just that, in six televised interviews with major news networks Monday night and a speech to the nation from the White House Tuesday night. The president won’t sway Paul; whether he can convince the American public remains to be seen.