Listening to the testimony of administration officials on Wednesday during the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing only further solidified my position to vote against a resolution authorizing the president to use military force in Syria. I asked simple questions of the witnesses and expected straightforward answers. Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry could not offer an explanation that made U.S. military intervention an acceptable option, nor could they define a clear and present danger to the U.S.
Secretary Hagel could not tell lawmakers who the U.S. could trust among the Syrian opposition, stating “that’s not my business to trust.” Like many Americans, I believe it is our duty as decision makers to be informed and confident when making choices — especially in those choices that could result in sending U.S. troops or money abroad. It is no wonder Secretary Hagel isn’t in the business to trust when more players are added daily to the growing list of ‘Syrian opposition’ — many of them jihadist, terrorists, known Al Qaeda affiliates, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and enemies of the U.S. and our allies. To simplify, the Secretary of Defence was unable to tell us, after nearly three years of the Syrian Civil War, who the good guys are or if there are any at all.
To make matters worse, Secretary Kerry explicitly stated that the current proposal for unilateral U.S. military action is to “assert a principle.” It is not to halt the killing of innocent Syrians, it is not to end the evil and tyrannical rule of Assad, and it is not to protect the US or our allies from an imminent attack.
It is easier to be principled at others’ expense.
While both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel repeatedly stressed that the Senate-passed resolution excluded U.S. troops from going into Syria, the resolution is littered with loopholes and exceptions. Prohibiting the use of combat troops does not preclude U.S. military personnel from being sent to Syria for training or covert purposes.
Targeted strikes will lead to Americans in Syria, and that action will likely result in loss of life. No one — not the president, not his administration officials, not Members of Congress, not our allies in the region — knows the full reach of implications if we authorise the president’s request.
Secretary Hagel could not articulate the cost of this mission any more than stating it would be in the tens of millions. We do not know if targeted strikes will do anything to spare innocent lives and we do not know who we can trust amongst the Syrian opposition. An unknown number of factions are amongst the opposition forces – factions who want to kill Assad and assume power, factions who want to kill Americans and factions who want to kill each other. At this point, Syria is worse than the wild west and we have no idea who will be left standing when the dust settles.
The Obama Administration would like the American public to think this military strike will serve as a deterrent. Nevertheless, it chose to ignore the fact that we went into Iraq to prevent the future use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. If dictatorships in countries like Syria and Iran were not deterred 10 years ago, why would this military strike be any different?
At this juncture in Syria’s Civil War, it is clear that Assad’s fortune and power will eventually come to an end, and when it does, he will retaliate like a wounded animal — the death throes of a once vicious animal that knows the end is near.
We are not at odds with rationally-minded people; we are at odds with extremists who do not care about the ramifications of their actions.
This is Syria’s Civil War. Violence has not escaped Syria’s borders and it is not our role to serve as the world’s policeman. At this time and given all the facts, the administration has failed to make a case with a reasonable degree of certainty to responsibly call for military action.
Tom Marino has been the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district since 2011. He is a member of the Republican Party and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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