Today, Congress is haunted by the prospect that those who supposedly know best could be wrong, as the Iraqi threat of weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false. And the notion that striking Syria could spark a broader conflict also gives them pause.
“We’ve been here before,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., can’t get the past off his mind. “You have to look back at history and try to make an evaluation. You have to use all the things that have happened,” he said, “and in my era that means from Vietnam to the present. We were told communism would spread around the world after Vietnam, but it didn’t seem to happen.”
This much is likely: The votes expected to begin next week will be tough to easily categorize by party affiliation, geography, age or anything else.
“On these kinds of issues it’s not a question of whipping,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, using a term that means pressuring colleagues to vote the party way.
She will talk to colleagues, and she may get personal. As Pelosi was leaving her San Francisco home Monday, her 5-year-old grandson asked her about Syria.
“He said: ‘I think no war.’ I said, ‘Well, I generally agree with that, but you know they’ve killed hundreds of children there.’ And he said, 5 years old: ‘Were these children in the United States?’ And I said: ‘Well, no. But they’re children wherever they are.’”
What her grandson didn’t ask, of course, was whether U.S. action could elicit a series of horrors elsewhere. Will more children die? There is no easy answer, nor is there a convenient path to finding one.
“If you go through the Book of Proverbs, you find the word ‘wisdom’ is in every other sentence,” Carper said. “So I always ask God for the knowledge and wisdom for the right thing to do and the strength and courage to do it.”