On the idea that armed intervention is ever a good option
“I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.” (2008)
The mindset in Iraq was to stop a genocidal dictator like Saddam Hussein who had gassed his own people — apparently the present mission is to stop the genocidal dictator Bashar Assad, who has gassed his own people.
On the folly of starting a wrong war to ensure a president’s sinking credibility
“It’s time to reject the counsel that says the American people would rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right.” (2008)
“That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” (2002)
Most believe that we are going to war mostly to restore Obama’s credibility after he issued an ill-advised red line to Syria that he thought would never be crossed — a war, in other words, predicated on “politics.”
On the dangers of not defining a mission or a methodology
“I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.” (2002)
“When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.” (2004)
So far we have not articulated the purpose of attacking Syria, the methods of intervention, or the desired outcome of the war — at a time of deep administration cuts to defense, soon to be made worse by sequestration.
On not intervening in the civil wars and internal affairs of Arab nations
“The U.S. military has performed valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. Our troops have done all that we have asked them to do and more. But no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants.” (2007).
Syria is currently in “somebody else’s” civil war in which the Assad dictatorship, Hezbollah militias, and Iranian volunteers are battling al-Qaeda affiliates, the Free Syrian Army, and various unknown coalitions of Assad opponents.
On the need for obtaining congressional authorization
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.” In response to a question “In what circumstances would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? … The notion that as a consequence of that [2002 Congressional] authorization, the president can continue down a failed path without any constraints from Congress whatsoever is wrong and is not warranted by our Constitution.” (2007)
The president did not ask Congress for authorization for the Libya attack. He just flip-flopped and plans to ask permission from Congress to bomb Syria, but indicated that he might bomb anyway should they say no. Neither Libya nor Syria posed an “imminent threat.”