Justin Amash: I Will Vote Against Arming Syrian Rebels


Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The libertarian-leaning Congressman from Michigan isn't buying the Obama administration's rationale for arming the Syrian rebels and plans to vote against the measure sponsored by House Republican leadership.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the bill later today. Rep. Justin Amash explained on Facebook why he opposes it:

As we should have learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must plan for multiple satisfactory ends to military conflicts before we commence them.

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.

As evidenced by his Facebook post, Amash shares some of the concerns raised by Sen. Rand Paul and others regarding the reliability of the rebel forces. There have been accusations of collusion between the rebels and ISIS, as well as fears that the Free Syrian Army is by far the weakest force in the region.

NEXT: House Vote on Arming Syrian Rebels Expected Today

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  1. We believe you, Justin. The test will be, will you still vote against it when you are running for POTUS?

    I’m not saying that your curly haired comrade will vote for it, just that I’m not as sure anymore.

  2. I wonder about Rand Paul – he could certainly take the same stance.

    1. Nope. He knows that he’s got no shot in the presidential primary if he doesn’t start pandering to the hawks.

      1. At this point, I’d rather he take a principled stand and focus on staying in the Senate.

      2. I think you are exactly right. That is very disappointing.

  3. look everyone! A libertarian who objects to a War based on Realpolitik, ….and not ideological non-interventionism?


    I presume he will be labeled Neocon now.

  4. he libertarian-leaning Congressman from Michigan isn’t buying the Obama administration’s rationale for arming the Syrian rebels and plans to vote against the measure sponsored by House Republican leadership

    Let’s be honest, no one with any sense of morality or a brain cell count that can’t be counted on one foot, are buying it. Unfortunately, that leaves out about 90% of congress.

  5. It would be nice to hear someone in Congress say “No, because I’m opposed to preventive war.”

  6. If the Syrian groups that are “appropriately vetted

    Oh for the lub of jeebus, these groups cannot be vetted. They will change sides at the drop of a hat. Get fucking real.

    1. That’s awfully, umm, realistic cynical of you.

    2. Of course they can. You ask them. “Are you a good guy who deserves weapons from the US, or are you a bad guy who should be targeted by a drone? Oh, you’re a good guy – cool, wanna buy some weapons?”

  7. These rebel scum are just like Nathanial Greene and his boys. Nipping and harrassing the British army.
    Or they’re crazy jihadis gearing up to head for America and cut off our heads and take our womenz!

  8. I agree that arming the wrong groups in Syria could be disastrous (or more disastrous than it already has been) but ISIL isn’t going away, and they are going to have to be met with force at some point.

    I’m not sure what the answer is for that but I know “ignore them and let Allah sort it out” isn’t the right answer either.

    Also, the guys from Wait But Why were in Iraq last month and wrote this great piece describing the giant mess we are currently in.

    From Muhammad to ISIS: Iraq’s Full Story

    1. they are going to have to be met with force at some point

      I have yet to hear a convincing reason for this.

      1. ISIL isn’t like the garden variety Jihadists that have popped up in the last fifty years. They are much different for a variety of reasons, starting with their ability to fund themselves through a black market oil trade.

        Statistically they are already the deadliest terrorist group in history (see here – ), and the more successful they are in taking territory the more likely they get their hands on very serious weapons.

        We can take them out much easier now than later.

        1. None of that explains why they are a threat beyond the region.

          1. If Iran starts fighting them, all the sunni states will back ISIS, and you will have a larger-scale sectarian conflict which could take a decade to cool down. meanwhile the most important oil producing regions on earth would be in the middle of Lebanonistan. This is viewed as bad for everyone.

            The reason the US is bitchslapping these towelheads is to prevent a backlash against a Iranian-Backed opponent doing the same.

            I am not saying i think its a good reason, but that’s the reason.

            1. “If Iran starts fighting them, all the sunni states will back ISIS”

              I’m not sure that’s a foregone conclusion, and I think ISIS might actually provide an opportunity for the region to unite against some of its uglier elements.

              I think you’re exactly right, though, that preventing war from engulfing the region and strangling the oil supply is a huge motivator, and being unable to control who comes out in the end with how much oil under their control is a source of no small amount of anxiety for the rest of the world.

            2. I hear what you are saying. My counter to that type of argument would be that we currently get 25% of our oil from the Middle East, with almost all of that coming from the Saudis. I’m no expert, but it at least seems plausible that we could make up for any loss of supply by turning to other existing suppliers, especially if people could just start building the damn pipeline(s?).

              Of course a major disruption in the Middle East would increase prices and cause some pain, but I’m willing to bet that getting drawn into yet another war would be more costly in almost every way imaginable.

              1. a)re: oil supply – You’re making the mistake of thinking we care more about “oil for the US” versus “oil for the entire world”

                b) re: ‘costly’ – tell it to President No Boots. Also, what do you think we’ve spent keeping the 5th fleet in the gulf for the last 40 years? Consider that ‘sunken cost’; they want to justify their existence.

                your counterargument would be unconvincing to those who consider ME stability and ‘containing Iran’ part of our global mandate. Since Reagan/the fall of the Soviet Union, its been the #1 game to play in the State Dept.

                again, its not my personal case, i’m just clarifying the status quo. i personally think letting them all kill each other is a faster way to achieve regional stability.

                1. “those who consider ME stability and ‘containing Iran’ part of our global mandate. Since Reagan/the fall of the Soviet Union, its been the #1 game to play in the State Dept.”

                  This is the thing right here. There was a good book on this out of Cato a number of years back arguing a kind of Cold War inertia – no longer having the USSR to contain, the State Dept. just looked around the world for someone else to contain (all the world looks like nails to a hammer, and all).

                  Once you accept the “need” to contain Iran and prevent them from taking over the entire Persian Gulf oil supply, non-interventionism is a non-starter.

                  I completely agree with you, though, that understanding the “why” does not necessitate supporting the program.

          2. Because they clearly have no plans to stop once they rewrite the Sykes-Picot lines. Their goal is a global caliphate. The more success they have the more they will bring in other Sunni forces who are at the current time more moderate and not inclined to join a global caliphate.

            It is similar in many ways to other various groups in history who started out as “only a problem for that particular region” but soon expanded to become a global issue.

            I’m not saying that we should arm rebels. I’m saying that if the goal is to destroy ISIL then we have to to do that full stop, and not with a slow drip of airstrikes.

            1. I don’t really care if their goal is a global caliphate. I care about what they can actually accomplish.

              By the accounts I’ve heard, ISIS consists of 30,000 fighters, some of whom are riding around the desert with AK-47’s, RPGs, and machine guns strapped to the back of some shitty ass trucks. They are ridiculously far removed from being a credible global threat.

            2. “I’m saying that if the goal is to destroy ISIL then we have to to do that full stop, and not with a slow drip of airstrikes.”

              That I definitely agree with you on, although I think you exaggerate the threat they actually present.

              They’ve been inviting airstrikes from us precisely because they know it wins them support in the region by distracting attention from what dicks they are and making them instead heroic resisters against foreign attack.

              They’re playing the US federal government like a fiddle.

              We could send in ground troops, but then we’re right back in 2003 without an exit strategy. We him and haw for another 10 years, pull out again, and what then? Another jihadist group, almost certainly.

              OTOH, Al-Qaeda never failed so badly as when they succeeded in Mali.

              1. For Square and Lynch,

                It all comes down to funding. If ISIL is able to take down Assad then they will get control of Syria’s Oil reserves (2010 oil sales generated an estimated $3.2 billion). This will allow them to start buying things from Putin and the Chinese that will put them beyond a few nutcases in a stolen Toyotas with light arms.

                Keep in mind much of ISIL is staffed by former Baathist party apparatchiks from Saddams glory days, and they are itching to get bigger weapons.

                Ignore it now and it will only be a problem for the Kurds and the Iraqi and Syrian non-sunni’s. But eventually it will metastasize.

                1. At the same time, though, the wider their base of power grows, and the more people come under their dominion, the more they will have to compromise and accommodate.

                  They will have to start administrating and acting like a government if they want to stick around. They will have to start building coalitions and being able to work with multiple diverse groups who may not all agree on which offenses people should be beheaded for.

                  At the moment they mostly control a desert populated by ethnically homogeneous (for the most part) nomads.

                  As long they as they keep up the perception of themselves as blood-and-soil freedom fighters they will be successful, but once they become the local authority they will have to either learn to play nice or their own population will eventually turn against them.

                  And I’m going to bet that the people of the urban ME aren’t going to be interested in living under IS rule for very long if they don’t feel threatened by foreigners.

                2. If ISIS ever did get control of $3.2B/year worth of oil reserves, I’m guessing they’d get pretty damn pragmatic pretty damn quick. A global caliphate is great for motivating the fuckers on the ground. Not so great for maintaining the cushy lifestyle of those at the top.

                  Russia and China also have their own problems with Muslim minorities. They might sell to someone with regional ambitions, but not to someone that actually wants to try to overrun the world.

                  If in fact much of ISIS is former Baathist party members, then I’d say that strengthens my point. Sadam had an entire state apparatus. He and his buddies used it to enrich themselves, not to spread global Islam.

                  And to be clear, I absolutely agree ISIS is a threat to the region that needs to be dealt with. But again, I’m not convinced we need to be the ones to do that.

                  1. Again to Square and Lynch,

                    I don’t share your faith that once ISIL gets big enough they will succumb to bureaucratic inefficiency. I understand what you’re saying, but the last time the shiite/sunni schism blew up in the 80’s it resulted in millions dead. That was with shitty 70’s hard weaponry, not Assads chemical weapons and the stuff they scurried out of Mosul and Baghdad ten years ago.

                    There is also the restoration of Arab control of the Muslim world which resonates with many muslims in the area. Currently Persians in Iran run the Shiite world, and this fact is not lost on the Arabs.

                    I would also agree with you that I have zero faith that President Not My Fault will ever address this problem correctly.

      2. note he didn’t say “By Whom”.

        Is that more convincing?

      3. Given their stated objectives and operational pattern up to this point I don’t think saying that they will need to be met with force is very contestable. I am waiting for a compelling argument as to why it must be we who should apply that force.

        1. Ground forces should be entirely regional. Airpower works great if someone is there to capitalize on the results directly.

          Until the local forces are ready for our support, we should hold back on those assets as well.

    2. Why isn’t “ignore them” the right answer?

      1. I have no doubt that regional actors need to confront ISIS now. My comment was referring to U.S. involvement.

        1. This was meant as a reply to Gilmore and Dances.

          1. sure. see my other comment re: “why us, and not them”

  9. OT: stop worrying. Because, you know, nobody really wants to take away your car:…..073300.htm

    1. Well they got one thing right, it would save 100 trillion dollars as it would send the economy spiraling back 50 years.

  10. What the Middle East really really need is more weapons in the hands of militias. What is the worst that could happen?

    p.s. I would be okay with our many wonderful American gun manufacturers and military contractors selling them weapons for cash. I object to the idea of me paying for their free guns. I want a free gun.

    1. Preferably fully automatic with grenade launcher.

      1. I’m going to need something belt-fed. And a lot of ammo.

  11. If I was king I would just say hands off. Let them build an Islamic State. Let the Kurds build their own state. Let them rewrite the entire map of the Middle East from what some arrogant Englishmen dreamed up in WWI to what works for the people who actually live there. Then if this new country called Islamic State attacks America, declare war and wipe them the fuck off the planet.

    1. See, you’re using logical thinking and reason here, sarc. That has no place in government because the military industrial complex cannot make zillions and pay off their government cronies under that plan. So, it’s war forever, comrades.

    2. The Kurds have no chance to beat ISIL on their own. Even with our airstrikes it’s not enough to beat back the size and competence of ISIL’s forces permanently. If we just “ignore it” the Kurds will be eradicated.

      ISIL is already rewriting the map. The question is whether or not anyone besides them will have an input on how it will be written.…..34×381.jpg

  12. If not engaging in this conflict at all isn’t an option…

    If the only alternative to sending in American troops is arming Syrian rebels…

    Then, by all means, let’s arm the rebels.

    That being said, I’m not convinced that refusing to engage in this conflict isn’t an option, and I don’t think sending in American troops is the only alternative to arming rebels.

    But we are severely limited by Obama’s lack of imagination.

    1. If ISIS really is an existential threat to a number of countries in the Middle East (and that does seem probable)…

      And if they are so brutal and extreme that even other Sunnis find them deplorable…

      Then it seems like there is at least a window of opportunity to *try* to get the countries under threat to at least temporarily set aside their differences and build a functioning coalition of ISIS’s common enemies. With enough diplomatic savvy one might even use this as a starting point for building a coalition that eventually might be able to counter the major regional players, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Or work within the existing Arab League (that’s a thing, right?).

      I have no illusions about such an effort. It would probably fail. But it seems like it is at least worth trying. And the U.S. could facilitate that effort diplomatically, politically, and perhaps economically. Throw in logistical support for military operations.

      Like I said, it would probably fail, but at least it’s a plan with ambition.

      1. ^ This times infinity.

      2. 1) I don’t see why our efforts to defeat ISIS will be any more successful than our efforts were to defeat the Iraqi insurgency.

        2) Doing nothing is better than doing something costly and inconsequential. We can only hope it’s inconsequential; our efforts against the insurgency actually made it bigger.

        3) Why risk that if the Syrian rebels are willing to fight ISIS on our behalf?

        4) ISIS’ most fierce common enemies are Syria and Iran.

        1. To clarify, I don’t support direct U.S. military involvement. I was suggesting one possible alternative to both complete disengagement and direct military support — using what influence we have to try and bring regional stakeholders together in a coalition to defeat ISIS by providing economic and political incentives, and limiting military support to logistics (intelligence and advice). I’m thinking of countries/groups like Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, the Emirates, and the Kurds. I don’t know much about Middle Eastern political dynamics, so maybe some combination of those are complete non-starters. But the point is that a common threat can make for strange bedfellows.

          1. The leaders of the countries you mention are reluctant to fight on our side against a Sunni force that’s resisting Assad or take the side of Assad and Iran in this conflict.

            …which is what they would be doing.

  13. I would have no objection to arming assorted rebel groups if I thought for an instant that anybody in Wonderland-on-the-Potomac knew what they were doing. The 19th century British used this tactic extensively. Yes, sometimes it bites you on the ass, but it can also work very well. Nobody in DC has the smarts of the 19th century British, however.

    I would also be delighted if we started simply saying “We don’t like so-and-so. He’s a constant annoyance. We’re going to drop the 82nd Airborne on his Presidential Chateau and forcibly retire the sonofabitch, because we can. It would have the merit of boing direct, fairly simple to execute, and easy for John Q Voter to understand.

    This pissing around at two or three removes look very smart and “Great Game”ish on paper. If we have cause to use military force, let’s use it to some effect. If the opinion of the World is that we are imperialist Bullies, we can invite them to go climb a tree the next time they want something from us (probably two days from now). And if it’s too expensive, or embarrassing, or what-have-you then LEAVE IT THE FUCK ALONE.

    1. fairly simple to execute


      1. I said SIMPLE, not EASY. As in, not so complied a plan that it is bound to fail if any minor detail doesn’t go as planned.

        “We’re king to kill the sonofabitch because we don’t like him” is almost the definition of simple.

        1. “War is very simple, but in War the simplest things become very difficult.”

  14. Fuck this, we should make peace with Assad.
    Cut a deal with Assad, where when he dies they have to have a Democratic election or something.

    1. ” where when he dies they have to have a Democratic election or something.”

      That ought to send a clear message

      1. I don’t get it. Assad never attacked us, and has never expressed any interest in attacking us. He never sought to be our enemy.

        We made him our enemy because we were all “Yay! Arab Spring!”
        and decided we were going to support the overthrow of every Arab Dictator in the region.

        That’s worked out well, hasn’t it?

        1. His dad was on the wrong side in the Cold War, and they are pretty much the last remaining “client state” of Russia.

          But I think you’re right that there was some inertia and unnecessary knee-jerk anti-Russia stuff that our wise and benevolent leaders probably regret now.

        2. Of course you don’t get it, Hazel.

          You are trying to use reason to understand the actions of people who are, in fact, quite literally insane. I’m not just talking about the ISIL folks; they are easy to understand if one understands their world view as crazy as it is. I’m really talking about the USG’s foreign policy elite, which has an even crazier world view.

        3. “HazelMeade|9.17.14 @ 1:35PM|#

          I don’t get it.”

          Why would any leader sign a deal that says, “Kill me as soon as possible?”

          Sorry, but i thought the other way of saying it was funnier.

          1. Oh yeah, well, we could provide guarentees of his safety.
            This is really more face saving for us. nobody’s going to live up to the deal when he dies in 30-40 years.

            1. “HazelMeade|9.17.14 @ 2:21PM|#

              Oh yeah, well, we could provide guarentees of his safety.”


              that’s a joke, right?

              1. Why would we WANT to kill Assad? The Islamists would just take over.

                1. “We” wouldn’t need to.

                  Look, my point was fairly simple = that dictators don’t negotiate themselves out of power.

                  re: “islamists”… who? hezbollah? or ISIS? or the Al-Nusra types?

                  1. I don’t think Hazel really appreciates any kind of link between authoritarian dictatorships and the kind of terrorist reactions they inspire.

                    Look at the history of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The Muslim Brotherhood seems to have first become radicalized in resistance to British colonialism…

                    I am sure that Islam influences the character of the response to authoritarianism, but when I look at terrorist networks…pretty much all of them, off the top of my head? You’d have to overlook a HUGE similarity–they all sprang up in opposition to authoritarian regimes–to attribute their existence merely to a radical form of Islam itself.

                    Authoritarianism radicalizes everybody. It does the same thing to Christians. It does the same kind of thing in Ferguson.

                    Authoritarianism as a solution to terrorism gets it all perfectly backwards.

    2. The necons were wrong about almost everything.

      Except America cozying up with dictators in the region really was and is a big inspiration for terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

      As bad as some people think the Arab Spring has been, it represented the alternative to Al Qaeda; indeed, Al Qaeda looks feckless in the aftermath of the revolutions in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. All those decades Al Qaeda struggled to get rid of those dictators–and they achieved nothing.

      Protesting in the streets and cooperation with the West on the other hand? In a matter of months, three dictators were gone.

      I don’t think cozying up with more dictators is the long terms solution here, and I’m not sure the rebels are a long term problem. After the dictators fell, there was bound to be a time of all sorts of social upheavals–dictators mask all that stuff. Like the dictatorship in Yugoslavia did.

      Being opposed to the Syrian dictator is where we want to be in the long term. Meanwhile, Iran thinks their very future existence may depend on keeping Assad in power. If we want to win the war on terror, if we want to get a permanent leg up on Iran, defeating Assad may be the most direct route to doing both of those things.

      I wish Assad’s head were already on a pike, and that the U.S. could somehow be credited with helping make that happen.

      1. And what has happened since the 3 months?

        In Egypt, they elected the Muslim Brotherhood.

        In Lybia and Syria, Islamist insurgencies are on the rise.

        I havn’t heard the news from Tunisia lately, but I would bet on it that their government is unstable and threatened by Islamists.

        1. It isn’t up to us if the Arab street just won’t take it. anymore. Even in Libya, we helped things along, but it was the Libyans (and Qatari) on the ground that made that happen. The Libyans didn’t check with us before they rebelled, and the Syrians didn’t either.

          And aren’t things moving in a more positive direction in Egypt? Sure, at first they voted in the Brotherhood as a reliable and honest replacement for their dictator. Then they learned that was a big mistake. Now they’re going to learn that brutalizing the Brotherhood isn’t the solution either…

          This is the kind of process they need to go through, and they could never go through the process so long as they had a dictator.

          Dictatorships are helpful during the Cold War, when the popular movements want to ally themselves with the Soviet Union. But dictatorships aren’t the long term solution to anything. Are we libertarians, or aren’t we?

          Who here imagines that a dictatorship in Syria is the long term solution to state sponsored terror, in that country, or that Syria isn’t a key supporter for Iran?

          1. Lol. At first they voted in the Muslim Brotherhood, and then there was a military coup that violently crushed them and installed a military dictator.

            Yes, let’s follow that path in every other Arab Spring nation.

            1. There was a wildly populate coup in response too the MB trying to do away with democracy and installing a theocracy. What more could you have hoped for? That the Egyptian people wouldn’t trust the MB to begin with? How reasonable is that given that the MB hadn’t any track record and seemed more trustworthy than the Mubarak regime?

              You don’t think the MB might dial it down if they ever get any kind of power again? How were they ssssupposssed to learn the limits of Egyptian democracy under Mubarak?

              This is the process peoples go through. The U.S. went through a similar process eventually erupting in a civil war. If the Egyptians mange to avoid that, they’ll be doing better than we did. In the meantime how much of an anti-American terrorist threat emerged out of Egypt since Mubarak fell?

      2. The idea that we’re going to make friends with Muslims by overthrowing dictators and opening the path for Islamists to take power is naive to the point of being delusional.

        1. What you were talking about was making nice with Assad. We’re not going to make any friends among Sunnis by doing that either.

          Meanwhile, Assad is both a state sponsor of Hezbollah, and a firm ally of Iran, the latter of which has a nuclear program and has already launched satellites with multistage rockets.

          The threat that ISIS presents to American security is nothing compared to the threat posed by Iran and, by extension, Syria.

          1. We had peace with the Assad regime, father and son for 40 years.

            There were no attacks on US soil launched from Syrian soil by either of those governments.

            Neither Hezbollah nor Iran has a stated aim of launching attacks on US soil. Nor are their anywhere near as crazy as ISIS.

            They might be a threat to ISRAEL, but I’m not willing to put US security at stake because the Israeli’s don’t like Hezbollah.

            1. Iran has a nuclear and advanced long range missile program.

              Iran considers the survival of the Assad regime as crucial to it’s security.

              Don’t you see the connection?

              If Iran thinks Assad is critical for it’s security, then why should we argue with them.

              If Iran is deathly afraid of the Arab Spring turning into a Persian Summer should Assad fall, thennwhynshouldn’t we encourage that?

  15. Either go all in for the American Empire, or just stay home.

  16. That congress thinks they still have any say in the matter is just so quaint.

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