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What’s the worst position to have on Syria?

For most of the day, on Sept 4th, the media was deeply entrenched in news about the US potentially bombing Syria due to the alleged use of chemical weapons. From the weak attempt of President Obama to try to garner support from the international community (“…the world set a red line…”) to Secretary Kerry’s avoidance of questions about how the Obama Administration would use any authorization of force against Syria to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval of same authorization. Big news for an issue that likely will take a decade to resolve all the ramifications.

Both sides of the issue have strong reasons for their causes. Those in favor of bombing Syria make the case that this will help deter future chemical weapons use around the world. They say that there is a moral imperative for the 1,400 that died. They say that if not stopped now, one day a terrorist will decide to use such weapons against the US, potentially.

Those against action state that US intervention in a sovereign nations internal dispute has no benefit to America. They pose the conclusion that ultimately, no matter who wins, the US will be blamed for collateral losses which will spur terrorist recruitment and lead to attacks against the nation. They counter that if the loss of 1,400 lives is a moral imperative, then what is the reason for the lack of action in the face of the genocide in Darfur that has claimed more than 1.2 million lives, and created ore than 300,000 refugees?

Both sides can be faulted for making assumptions that may not be fully valid. Both have flaws as well as core truths that should not be ignored.

But recent polling show clear lines of thought. Pew Research (9/3/13) noted that 74% felt a strike on Syria would lead to a backlash against the US. Only 33% felt, in the same poll, that a strike would be effective in deterring future chemical weapon attacks.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll (9/3/13) shows 59% opposed to attacking Syria (and 70% opposed to arming they Syrian rebels). An NBC poll (8/29/13) shows only 26% in favor of military action, increasing to 42% if chemical weapon use is proven, still a mere 21% see US interests actually linked to Syria.

Yet this is not the point of this article. The above is only meant to clarify a single point. There are clear and definitive positions in America on the issue of military strikes against Syria. In fact more than 140 Republicans and Democrat legislators signed a letter by Rep. Scott Rigell that went before President Obama on the issue of authorization by Congress for any proposed action (one of the most bipartisan acts in some time). For or against, the majority of elected politicians have taken a stance and are doing their jobs by trying to convince their constituents that they are on the right side of the issue.

The point of this post is about those politicians that are sitting on the fence, like Rep. Richard Hanna (NY-22). He is 1 of 2 Republicans, and 1 of 16 members of Congress representing New York State, that have clearly stated they have no position on the issue at this time.

“When the use-of-force resolution is finalized, I will review it closely to determine whether or not actions enabled by it advance vital interests of the United States and are in the best interest of upstate New Yorkers” – Rep. Richard Hanna 9/4/13

I do not believe that such a position is an act of leadership or even a responsible response for a representative elected to Congress. My first thoughts in fact were summed up in my Twitter response earlier in the day,

@electvasquezny – “Leadership is not about winning every battle or being right in every debate, its about decisiveness in the face of ambiguity.”

Let me be clear, I do not advocate a hasty decision on an issue with ramifications that reach across the globe and may not be resolved in total for a decade or more. Nor do I advocate a close-minded approach that would prevent both proof and reasonable debate from swaying an elected official from one position to a more worthy one.

But this is an issue that demands definitive answers from elected officials now. Constituents have a right to know if their representative believes that Congress needs to approve Presidential military action of this nature. They need to know if, after weeks of discussion and information, their Representative believes that US interests are at risk – one way or another.

It is the obligation of an elected politician to present, in their view, the best options available on any issue – and provide proof and arguments to back up that belief – for the benefit of constituents. Anything less is not deliberation but political maneuvering glossed over with false sympathy, in my opinion.

This is even more true when such ambiguity is the weapon of a politician that has time and again taken both sides of issues – like immigration, long-term abortion, the NSA and 4th Amendment, even going back to 2011 and Libya. “When the use-of-force resolution is finalized…” says volumes. Once that is done, the debate will essentially be over, with a clear indication of both where the nation feels is the best course of action and what will or will not be done. At that point, those on the fence will just be jumping on a bandwagon, evading any fear of a cost of votes in their next re-election.

Issues of this magnitude have grave consequences, and political opportunism can never benefit the average American. More than ever, moments like this define the future of the nation and thus require those strong enough to stand up and take a stance they believe is both correct and worthy. Only in making strong arguments, and fighting for the best outcome can America walk a path to tomorrow with confidence it has done the right thing.

I can say with certitude that I believe intervention into Syria, especially with military action that is purposefully ineffective at swaying the conflict, is the worst option for America in the long run. It is a plan without foresight to the consequences it will create, and provides no upside to our nation at any point. I appreciate and respect the reasons that oppose my view, and I am more than willing to listen to informed and reasonable debate to sway my position – just as I am willing to wholeheartedly defend my points until proven credibly wrong. I have talked to residents of the NY-22 and beyond, and will speak to more on this issue upon request, because this conversation is the only way to resolve a problem that the hubris of our President has thrust upon us. How can our elected officials do any less?

There are 16 members of Congress for New York that are on a fence. I have called out Rep. Hanna to reveal, clearly and without ambiguity, where he stands and why as he is my Representative and others should do the same for their Representative. I have no doubt that he and the others all hold preferences, and they should have the internal fortitude to let the public know what that is. Just as this is not about partisanship, so to it should not be about bandwagons and political maneuver for re-election plans and fundraising dreams.

In America we expect more from our politicians, and this is the time and issue where our politicians live up to that expectation.

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