Generally, arming people is a good idea because it’s rare that they end up fighting you with your own weapons later.
Almost never happens. Right?
Hey, remember Justin Amash? He’s the Tea-Partying Congressman who explains all his votes on Facebook. Here is an excerpt from his explanation of his vote today against arming the rebels:
If the Syrian groups that are “appropriately vetted” (the amendment’s language) succeed and oust Assad, what would result? Would the groups assemble a coalition government of anti-Assad fighters, and would that coalition include ISIS? What would happen to the Alawites and Christians who stood with Assad? To what extent would the U.S. government be obligated to occupy Syria to rebuild the government? If each of the groups went its own way, would Syria’s territory be broken apart, and if so, would ISIS control one of the resulting countries?
If the Syrian groups that we support begin to lose, would we let them be defeated? If not, is there any limit to American involvement in the war?
Perhaps some in the administration or Congress have answers to these questions. But the amendment we’ll vote on today contains none of them.
Above all, when Congress considers serious actions—especially war—we must be humble about what we think we know. We don’t know very much about the groups we propose to support or even how we intend to vet those groups. Reports in the last week suggest that some of the “appropriately vetted” groups have struck deals with ISIS, although the groups dispute the claim.
Yes, we must be humble about what we think we know — and also about our ability to foresee unintended consequences from military missions we have not thought through. Government action almost always results in some kind of unintended consequences. When that action is military action, and the people in charge have not thought about the answers to the tough questions, those unintended consequences can be harsh indeed.
I stand with Ted Cruz and Justin Amash in opposing this action. But not, apparently, with most Republicans.