On Aug. 21, nearly 1,500 men, women, and children were killed in a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria. This horrific attack is just the latest atrocity in a brutal civil war between forces supporting dictator Bashar Al-Assad and various rebel groups, which has left as many as 100,000 Syrians dead and millions displaced.
People around the world are rightfully outraged by what is happening in Syria.
The killing of innocent people with weapons of mass destruction violates both international law, as well as our most basic standards of humanity and decency. While there has been near universal condemnation of these actions, there has been considerable disagreement – and confusion – about how the United States should respond.
President Obama supported a targeted strike against the Syrian regime to punish them for their use of chemical weapons, degrade their weapons capability, and deter their future use.
These are worthy goals; however, military intervention always involves significant risks, especially in conflicts as complicated as the current situation in Syria.
Facing skepticism from Congress and the American people, the President decided to seek Congressional authorization before intervening in Syria.
I do not believe Congress should tie the hands of this or any President as Commander in Chief. However, the request for congressional consideration gave the American people a chance to have their voices heard.
In the last two weeks, I have heard from many Third District residents, the overwhelming majority of whom are opposed to American intervention in Syria.
Nebraskans, and people across the country, have been reaching out to their elected representatives to express their concerns about the unintended consequences of military action, including the potential for an open-ended conflict, retaliation by the regime against our allies in the region, and helping an opposition in Syria which includes extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.
It became clear the American people and Congress did not agree with the President’s rationale for action.
In his address to the nation on Tuesday, President Obama asked Congress to delay a vote while he explored a diplomatic effort led by Russia for the Syrian government to turn over its stockpiles of chemical weapons.
I have several concerns and questions regarding the most recent proposal, including how the international community would ensure the safe and complete transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons. However, this shift by the administration is a good demonstration of the influence of the public in our country. By speaking out, the American people slowed what was a rush to war, and forced the President and some lawmakers to more carefully consider their options.
I share the concerns of the American people and my constituents. I also am skeptical the Russian proposal to seize chemical weapons would be effective. Russia is closely allied with the Syrian regime, and both sides of this war are likely to continue the bloodshed with or without weapons of mass destruction.
Questions of war and peace should always be carefully and thoughtfully considered. Syria in particular is a very complicated conflict with no easy solutions.
As the debate continues, it is critical the American people continue to make their voices heard.