Today, I released the following statement on the resolution to authorize military action in Syria.
I cannot support the resolution that passed the Foreign Relations Committee to use force in Syria because it is too broad, the effects of a strike are too unpredictable, and because I believe we must give diplomatic measures that could avoid military action a chance to work. I commend Secretary Kerry and President Obama for their steadfastness during this conflict, which has brought Syria and Russia back to the negotiating table.
The administration’s intended military action in Syria is designed to deter and degrade the Assad’s regime’s chemical weapons capability. I agree with such intentions – the use of chemical weapons is a heinous and horrific act outside the bounds of civilized conduct. However, I am concerned about the unintended consequences of the strikes and the potential for triggering an even greater conflagration that could be beyond our ability to predict or control.
I have read the full classified intelligence report prepared by our nation’s intelligence community about the August 21st chemical weapons attack. I have also reviewed other relevant intelligence reports on Syria. I have consulted with a wide range of experts on Syria and the region. I have participated in multiple classified briefings and hearings on Syria.
After weighing all the information, I do not dispute the evidence that the administration has presented about Assad’s use of chemical weapons. However, I do not believe that the resolution as currently written is the most effective way for our country to accomplish its objectives in Syria. Moreover, I believe that such a military strike could actually make it more difficult for our nation to achieve its goals in this volatile region of the world.
I am opposed to the current resolution for three reasons.
One, it is too broad due to last minute changes added to the document. The resolution to authorize military force began as surgical strikes, but now includes provisions that explicitly endorse regime change by calling for changing the conditions on the battlefield in Syria. In fact, media reports indicate that the broadening of the language already has led to the Pentagon also expand its list of targets.
Two, I am troubled that the unintended consequences of a strike against Syria could draw America’s servicemen and women into the Syrian civil war.
Three, due to Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the Syrians, Russians, United Nations, and the international community are all coming to the negotiating table. We should take advantage of this new diplomatic opportunity before we consider military action. Any resolution considered by Congress should include language that that anticipates that force would not be used if Syria agrees and abides by Secretary Kerry’s suggestion that Assad puts all of Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. Without such a diplomatic off-ramp, the current resolution embraces use of military force even as Russia, Syria, France, Great Britain, and the UN appear to be moving in the direction of a diplomatic resolution of this crisis.
It is important that we keep the pressure on the Syrians and the Russians to follow through with this new diplomatic option. It must not be used as a delaying tactic by the Assad regime. I will work with my Senate colleagues and the administration to do so.
But I cannot, and will not, support a resolution that is inconsistent with the principles that I have outlined today.