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The Rise of the Antiwar Libertarians

The Rise of the Antiwar Libertarians

If you’re among the majority of war-weary Americans who oppose any sort of military intervention in Syria, thank libertarian Republican lawmakers Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

If the House and Senate vote against authorizing war next week, the efforts by these two guys will have been instrumental. Indeed, their outspoken, principled pushback is part of the reason that President Barack Obama—the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner—hasn’t already pursued some sort of strike “just muscular enough not to get mocked” by the world while not inciting retaliation by Bashar al-Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran.

Paul and Amash consistently take on their own party when it comes to limiting executive power, rolling back the surveillance state and other war-on-terror excesses and redefining foreign policy.

Amash is not only conducting an exemplary districtwide listening tour on Syria, he’s documenting it via his Twitter feed and the Facebook page he uses to explain all his votes and positions. Paul added an amendment to the Senate resolution on Syria that declares the president in violation of the Constitution if he launches attacks without congressional authorization. Unlike the flip-flops by Republicanswho were hawks on Iraq—and in-the-GOP-tank organizations such as the Heritage Foundation—no one assumes these guys will reverse their stances on bombing Arabs the second that the Party of Lincoln regains the White House.

You may not like their positions on abortion or gay marriage (I don’t particularly—and I’m a libertarian), but Amash and Paul’s intense ideological consistency is precisely why they are effective in limiting fighting overseas. They are never afraid to take on the president—or their own party. Sen. John McCain has denounced them by name as “wacko birds,” and they’ve been called everything from racists toassholes.

Compare their adamantine spine to rollover Republicans such as Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner, or any of the 35 House Democrats (with Nancy Pelosi leading the charge like a latter-day Molly Pitcher!) that Think Progress figures will vote yes on military action. Then there’s the bipartisan Senate resolution, which was spearheaded by Bob Corker (R-TN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and hews to Obama’s bizarre, pathetic insistence that he wants to send an unambiguous message to the Assad regime without actually toppling it. As First Things editor R.R. Reno devastatingly argues, “Launching cruise missiles or airstrikes simply to ‘show resolve’ or ‘send a message’ cannot be justified. At the end of the day, these rationales authorize symbolic killing, which is fundamentally immoral.”

Such reasoning is plainly lost on Obama, whose high-flying rhetoric on “dumb wars,” transparency, and so much else has been systematically unmasked as nothing more than gas since he’s occupied the White House. “The president does not have the 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,” Obama told The Boston Globe in 2007, years before his unilateral decision to drop bombs on Libya and back when he was trying to separate himself from the ostensibly pro-war candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton. (Naturally, she supports giving Obama carte blanche.)

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