Protestors at Senate hearing
John Kerry responds
On Wednesday, two prominent liberal advocacy groups announced their opposition to striking Syria: VoteVets.org, the combat veterans-oriented organization that spent more than $3 million during the 2012 campaign; and MoveOn.org, the grass-roots group that helped lead opposition to invading Iraq in the first place.
A day earlier, the Win Without War Coalition — another prominent force in rallying opposition to the Iraq War — also released a lengthy statement weighing in against Syria intervention.
The Democratic Party leadership remains squarely behind Obama in his call for limited military action against the regime of President Bashar Assad, who is alleged to have used sarin gas against civilians on multiple occasions. Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have also endorsed the use of force.
But already-anxious proponents of intervention could have a bigger headache to deal with thanks to dissension within Obama’s own party.
Anna Galland, executive director of MoveOn.org civic action, said that a vote of the organization’s membership that wrapped up Wednesday morning found nearly three quarters “opposing the use of force.”
“The reports of chemical weapons that we’re hearing are horrific, but our members don’t believe that military action is the solution,” Galland told POLITICO. “MoveOn and our 8 million members are going to be making sure our congressional membership hears our voices.”
Galland said that would involve both phone calls to members of Congress and a “national day of action” on Monday, Sept. 9.
VoteVets.org founder Jon Soltz announced his organization’s stance in a Huffington Post op-ed, writing that “any military action without a decisive end” could entangle the United States in a long conflict with Assad or a messy process of rebuilding a “post-Assad Syria.”
“I fully understand that President Obama has painted himself into a political corner, but VoteVets.org cannot support this rush to conflict,” Soltz wrote. “At this point, if we want to help without committing the United States to another war, humanitarian assistance to bolster a moderate opposition still represents our best course of action in Syria.”
The opposition of Soltz’s group is perhaps a bit more surprising than MoveOn’s position: while MoveOn routinely positions itself to the left of the official Democratic Party, VoteVets has often won praise from party strategists for its supportive role backing Democrats in congressional elections.
Activists on the left have been slow to mobilize against action in Syria, due partly to what several Democrats characterized as the moral complexity of a situation involving the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. Rather than reflexively coming out against attacking Syria, several liberal groups first urged Obama to consult Congress before taking action.