Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chris Murphy and Joe Lieberman, a Study in Contrasts

In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on the Syria AUMF, only two Democrats voted no: Chris Murphy and Tom Udall. Murphy and Udall, along with Rand Paul, were the only ones to vote against arming the Syrian rebels in a vote in the SFRC back in May.

It didn't fully register with me until this afternoon, but just reflect on this for a moment: Chris Murphy has Joe Lieberman's old seat.

Remember good old warmongering Joe Lieberman, he of the Three Amigos (with McCain and Graham)?

Here was Joe Lieberman on the Fox News morning show on Sunday:
Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Sunday blasted President Barack Obama for asking for Congress’ approval before launching an attack on Syria over the President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

“I was looking back,” Lieberman told Fox News host Chris Wallace. “Over my 24 years, never saw anything like it.”

The former senator insisted that the president now had authority to act and that it would be “catastrophic” if Congress did not give the green light to attack Syria.

Lieberman said that he would urge lawmakers — including his “amigos,” Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — to approve an action in Syria.

“I’m sure that our enemies are cheering now as a result of this decision because they realize it’s not clear the president will get authority, and our allies are worried,” he concluded. “That’s why, again, this resolution or something like it has to pass Congress.”
And just a week ago, Joe signed onto a letter with fellow neocons Bill Kristol and Dan Senor--among other chickenhawks--calling for military intervention, the provision of arms to the rebels, and regime change. Of course, all of this was framed around sending a "message" to Iran.
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has once again violated your red line, using chemical weapons to kill as many as 1,400 people in the suburbs of Damascus. You have said that large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria would implicate "core national interests," including "making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies [and] our bases in the region." The world—including Iran, North Korea, and other potential aggressors who seek or possess weapons of mass of destruction—is now watching to see how you respond.

We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship's military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.

Moreover, the United States and other willing nations should consider direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime. The objectives should be not only to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants. At the same time, the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.

Left unanswered, the Assad regime's mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America's red lines are only empty threats. It is a dangerous and destabilizing message that will surely come to haunt us—one that will certainly embolden Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons capability despite your repeated warnings that doing so is unacceptable. It is therefore time for the United States to take meaningful and decisive actions to stem the Assad regime’s relentless aggression, and help shape and influence the foundations for the post-Assad Syria that you have said is inevitable. 
Let's contrast that approach with that of freshman senator Chris Murphy. Here's the email he sent out today discussing his vote. The email subject line was "I voted NO on military intervention today."
Earlier today, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I voted against authorizing the use of military force in Syria.

The resolution passed 10 to 7, and now moves on to deliberation and a final vote before the full U.S. Senate.

As promised, I wanted to send you a message once I made up my mind, along with information about how I came to this difficult conclusion.

First of all, the president's decision to come to Congress was the right one, and I appreciate the great thought and consideration that the Administration has given to our nation's response to the crisis in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against the people of Syria is a human rights atrocity and a blatant violation of international law. It's impossible to see the horrific images of death and suffering in Syria and not feel compelled to act in some way. But there is not always an American solution to every international crisis. For me, today's vote was a close call, but in the end, I voted no because I believe that downside risks of military action, both for U.S. interests and the Syrian people, outweigh the potential benefits.

In the short-term, there is little chance that targeted air strikes will destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, and may simply prompt another deadly reaction from Assad as well as the countries that finance his murderous regime. In the long-term, I worry that today's authorization, which combines authorization for a military strike with support for the lethal arming of the opposition, will involve us in the Syrian conflict in a way that will be difficult to untangle.

Our focus should be on increasing humanitarian aid to the millions of innocent Syrians suffering at the hands of Assad, as well as on concerted diplomatic, political, and economic pressure on the regime.

Thanks for being a part of this conversation.

Chris Murphy
(Emphasis added) 

There are many moments where I stop and think about how great it is that Joe Lieberman is no longer in the Senate. Chris Murphy has done a pretty good job so far in his stead.

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