Stop the race to war

Rather than marching to war, the Trump administration has been sprinting. A week-and-a-half ago, few Americans would have thought we were on the brink of a full-blown clash with Iran, a nation with some 400,000 troops in its military. Now we may suddenly find ourselves fighting one in the global tinderbox of the Middle East before the American people or their representatives in Congress have time to assess the situation and verify facts.

In the last 10 days, a few tanker ships were attacked in the Straits of Hormuz — we don’t have enough verified information to fully determine what happened — and then Iran shot a U.S. drone out of the sky. President Donald Trump said he was 10 minutes away from launching a military attack on Iran’s home soil Thursday night. He said he called it off when he learned that it would kill about 150 people.

We are glad for his restraint, but we doubt that’s the end of it. And the death toll from that strike would have been much higher than 150 since it almost certainly would have led to a steeper escalation of attacks, and possibly all-out war.

And if each country’s allies jump in, too, it could be a global catastrophe with all the makings of a world war.

Let’s remember the lessons of history.

Why would we start this? Other countries’ tankers? A U.S. drone? That’s nowhere near enough to justify such massive bloodshed.

The question cannot help but loom: Is it rather because Saudi Arabia wants the U.S. to fight its cultural enemy for it in a holy war between the Sunni and Shiite forms of Islam? And because Israel wants us to fight Iran for it as well? Those countries are our allies, but this should not be our fight. Our better role in that critical region should be to help keep the peace.

That includes blocking Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, keeping in mind that the point is to avoid catastrophe.

Iran’s theocratic leaders are an obstacle, but their control over their people has greatly slipped since the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s. The nation’s population is largely young and educated, and wants a more moderate government, which has led the ayatollahs to repress their voices in elections but also to cave and allow a more moderate president that they would have chosen. We shouldn’t give a divided and largely disgruntled population cause to unite in patriotism against us. After all, wouldn’t any nation defend itself against another country’s aggression on its shores?

The U.S. Constitution specifically gave Congress, not the president, the power of declaring war, and for good reason — to ensure that the American people are behind engaging in a massive, bloody, expensive, lengthy military engagement. Nevertheless, we’ve had a lot of long, bloody, expensive wars since World War II, the last one Congress officially declared. Presidents start them, asserting their commander-in-chief title. Toward the end of the undeclared Vietnam War, Congress tried to reclaim its authority by passing the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Every president since then has violated it, and Congress hasn’t done anything to stop or punish them.

Our country has a problem with checks and balances. Presidents have asserted too much power over the years. Now, as another president plunges toward another war, we hope this Congress will be the voice of reason and restraint.

The U.S. doesn’t even have a Defense secretary at the moment; one acting secretary is moving in take over for another who just resigned.

We especially appeal to the North Country’s congresswoman, Elise Stefanik. On one hand, she has been a war hawk who received campaign donations from John Bolton, the neo-conservative national security advisor who is one of the Trump administration’s strongest voices for war with Iran. And on Friday she called Iran a “rogue regime” and said its recent aggressions (she didn’t mention the U.S.’s aggressions) showed it never meant to cooperate.

But on the other hand she has often stuck up for Congress’ constitutional powers against presidential overreach.

Rep. Stefanik, this is a critical time when many lives are at stake, and possibly even the state of the world — a time on which leaders might be judged for generations to come. We hope you can use whatever influence you have to help keep our country constitutionally sound and out of war.

We need more than just the president’s gut feelings standing between us and global calamity.