It is often said that in war the simple becomes difficult and the difficult becomes impossible. As Washington deliberates the extent of our involvement in Syria’s civil war, it’s important that lawmakers thoughtfully consider the long-term effects of intervention and ask serious questions regarding the United States’ policy in the Middle East.
For over two years, Syria has been engaged in a civil war. More than 100,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting and another 1.5 million have been displaced, seeking safe harbor in neighboring states. Recent reports that the regime of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against its own citizens has prompted the Obama Administration to consider taking military action against the regime. Congress is slated to vote on the proposed use of force in the coming days.
I have thoroughly studied the situation in Syria, receiving intelligence briefings and speaking with my colleagues in Congress. Proponents of military action believe that missile strikes would help maintain America’s prestige in the world and reestablish America’s tattered credibility in the region. If only this vote for military action in Syria could restore our standing in the world, demonstrate strength of conviction in the region, and make the world safer for America and our allies — then I would vote for it. But it won’t.
It has become clear to me that President Obama and his Administration do not have a cohesive long-term policy for the Middle East and are unable to articulate a strategy in Syria. The Administration has also not made it clear what objective and end game is achievable with a limited use of force. I think they’re forgetting that the first rule of war is that the enemy gets a vote. While the Obama Administration may intend for the conflict to remain limited, Syria and its allies (Iran and Hezbollah) certainly have the capability to escalate the situation by attacking our allies (such as Israel, Jordan and Turkey) and continue using weapons of mass destruction against other targets. What is intended to be a limited missile strike in Syria has the potential to turn this civil war into a regional conflict.
To make matters worse, it appears that if we were to pursue the president’s suggested course of military action, we would be acting unilaterally, as support from our allies is nearly nonexistent. Limited unilateral action will not send the right message to Iran and other bad actors, and I fear it will only further destabilize the region. The greatest danger to the United States and our allies in the region is the prospect of Iran gaining nuclear weapons capability. The regime in Iran doesn’t think for one second that President Obama will use military force to stop them from gaining this capability — and a limited strike on Syria will do nothing to change their mind.
Up to this point, President Obama and his Administration have not done a credible job in demonstrating strength of conviction in the region and a face-saving tactic such as sending cruise missiles into Damascus now isn’t going to change that. Military action will only bring hardship and danger to our troops and allies. For these and many other reasons that I have heard expressed by many of you, I do not believe it is in our national interest to take the military action currently proposed by the President against Syria.