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The anti-war tea party rises, but is it legitimate?

The tea party movement has been largely quiet in recent months. But as the Obama administration and Congress consider US military action in Syria, the movement has emerged as a leading anti-war voice.

By Staff writer / September 7, 2013

Tea party activists rally in front of the US Capitol in June. The movement’s top strategists concede the tea party is quieter today, by design. But it has emerged as a strong antiwar voice on Syria.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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ATLANTA

As President Obama moves forward with plans to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons, the battle for war resolve in Congress is coming down to the American grass roots – in particular, a tea party movement emerging as arguably the country’s strongest antiwar voice.

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“We share the humanitarian concern for the Syrian people … but we strongly believe the situation in Syria will not improve, and could well deteriorate, due to American military involvement,” Bruce Carroll, chairman of a tea party group called Carolina Conservatives United, told Breitbart News on Friday. He added that “Obama has not adequately made the case that any national security interests are at stake.”

The idea of right-wing conservatives heading up antiwar protests is eye-opening, though critics question whether it’s a genuine philosophical viewpoint or simply more political obstructionism of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

Still, the reversal is notable. After all, it was progressives who led protests against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, with Obama emerging as a chief critic of the Bush doctrine in his campaign for president.

What’s now coalescing is an ad hoc coalition of tea party conservatives and antiwar liberals, brought together by what the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent calls “some civil libertarian overlap” around concerns about overreach in domestic spying by government agencies.

The upshot is that the “wing” grassroots in both parties is fomenting opposition to leadership, representing “a genuine threat to the outcome,” writes Mr. Sargent. One sign: Tea party loyalists forced minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky to remain neutral on the intervention (so far, at least), after they threatened him with a primary challenge.

Obama, having established a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria last year, appeared set to launch strikes last week, but pulled back amid growing bipartisan concerns. After tense hearings on Capitol Hill this week, Obama is now seeking Congressional approval, setting off frantic “whip-counting” in Congress over whether he has the votes.

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