Following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on Syria, Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42) issued the following statement:
“After much thought and serious consideration, I have decided that if the President ultimately does seek Congressional authority I would vote against the use of military force in Syria.
There is no doubt that the actions by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad are deplorable and that the loss of life in Syria is both senseless and tragic. The violence in Syria comes during a period in which the Middle East has become embroiled in a series of conflicts and uprisings that have destabilized much of the region. As we know all too well, the violence in the Middle East has also resulted in the loss of American blood and treasure.
It is in the context of these realities that I considered President Obama’s request for the authorization to use military force in Syria. Make no mistake, the military actions being proposed by the President are an act of war. Before our country initiates acts of war, I firmly believe we must have clear and precise objectives, as well as be prepared for all possible reactions by the nation we are attacking.
After hearing from the President and receiving both classified and unclassified briefings on the proposed mission, I am unconvinced that a US attack on Syria has clear and precise objectives. The Administration has now publicly acknowledged that there have been eleven chemical weapons attacks in Syria. If President Obama allowed his “red line” to be crossed on multiple occasions without a response, Americans cannot help but wonder why he is choosing to act now. The lack of decisive action and slippage in the President’s Syrian strategy has now allowed Bashar al-Assad and his allies to anticipate a limited US response and, therefore, made it increasingly unlikely that a limited strike would significantly degrade his abilities to use chemical weapons.
I am also concerned that in his attempt to rally Americans in support of military action, President Obama is downplaying potential responses by Syria and its allies that could result in the escalation of U.S. involvement. As we have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya, nations rife with conflict are not quickly pacified once their authoritarian regimes are weakened or toppled. By discounting potential undesirable reactions by Syria, its allies, and even the extremist, Al Qaeda linked rebels, the President is not being forthright with the American people and our service members.
My opposition to authorizing military force in Syria is also indicative of my general concern and lack of confidence in the President’s Middle East strategy which remains befuddled and unfocused. Much like we saw in Egypt and Libya, there is a lack of clarity on what ultimate outcome President Obama hopes to see in Syria. Without a doubt, the internal conflicts in many of these nations are complex and involve a myriad of factions, each with their own motives and goals. However, given the lack of a clear and consistent approach to the civil uprisings in the Middle East, I cannot vote to authorize the President’s engagement of our U.S. military forces in Syria even in the face of Bashar al-Assad’s morally reprehensible tactics.”