Written by Andrew Baugh & media by Michael Courtney
On Wednesday, September 4th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution allowing President Obama to utilize a military strike on the country of Syria after reports of the government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians. The opinions of the senators were split with a final 10-7 vote, with both bipartisan support and resistance to the proposed strike (BBC).
The resolution allows for strikes against the Syrian government for a limit of sixty days, with a possible extension of thirty days with the approval of Congress. Additionally, it does not permit the use of ground soldiers in any form. “We all agree there will be no American boots on the ground,” Secretary of State John Kerry says to members of the committee. “The president has made crystal clear we have no intention of assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war” (Yahoo News). Syria has been plagued by a serious civil war since early 2011 after a series of uprisings against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The United Nations estimates that as many as 100,000 people have be killed as a result of the conflict.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that Syria’suse of chemical weapons was directly linked to the interest of national security. United States officials have said that any possible military action taken is not meant to directly support the rebels fighting the Assad regime.
The proponents of the resolution assured the committee that they were not intending to start a war with Syria. “Our military objectives in Syria would be to hold the Assad regime accountable, degrade its ability to carry out these kinds of attacks, and deter it from further use of chemical weapons,” says Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (Washington Post).
President Obama is not taking the issue lightly. Appearing in a news conference in Sweden, Obama said, “I do think that we have to act. Because if we don’t, we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn it and issue resolutions and so forth and so on, somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity” (CNN). And those international norms begin to erode. And other despots and authoritarian regimes can . . . say, that’s something we can get away with. And that then calls into question other international norms and laws of war, and whether those are going to be enforced.”
Even if the resolution is not approved, the military strike may still take place. “Ascommander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security,” says Obama. “I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress” (ABC News).
With the approval by this panel, the resolution now travels to the full Senate next week. The final decision by Congress will be made at this time. There is certain to be a great deal of debate among the senators, while the threat of entering another conflict looms in the near future.