Rep. Shea-Porter: No on Syria
Friday, September 13, 2013
By CAROL SHEA-PORTER
I’ve spent the last seven days in Washington D.C., receiving classified and unclassified briefings on the situation in Syria and speaking with people across New Hampshire about how the United States should respond.
Recognizing how serious the situation in Syria is, I have listened to arguments for and against an airstrike to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons.
At this point, I oppose the United States taking military action against the Assad regime in Syria.
While Syrian President Assad has committed vicious crimes against his own people, and I especially condemn the use of chemical weapons, it is hard to see at this time how a military air strike against Syria will fix this.
The civil war in Syria is a complex sectarian, ethnic and regional conflict.
There are many sides, they hate each other, and none want to compromise or risk losing.
There is an alphabet soup of bad guys there. It’s estimated that up to 25 percent of the rebels are aligned with al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
If the United States launches a sustained and heavy attack, we run the risk of swapping Assad out for some equally ruthless group or being drawn into a long-term engagement. If we launch a smaller, targeted attack, we risk emboldening President Assad and causing more casualties.
No matter how limited the initial attack, we run the risk of mission creep. Limited strikes could lead to a long-term engagement.
One question I keep asking without a good answer, “What does the next day look like?”
If the United States takes military air strikes against Syria, what happens if Bashar al-Assad continues to use chemical weapons? Do we send in troops? Do we drop more bombs? How many American troops and Syrian civilians will be killed? How will this act be perceived by our allies and enemies in the Middle East?
These are questions that cannot be answered.
Another question I keep asking is “Who is better for the interests of the U.S. and our allies, Assad or the rebels?” I agree with the Washington Post – neither is very good for American interests.
The Post writes, “Assad, in addition to being an oppressive dictator at home, is an anti-American leader who supports Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
“But he has at least been stable, rational and predictable. There’s a growing fear that the rebels could be worse.
“Some groups say they want democracy but some openly espouse allegiance to al-Qaeda, and are already imposing a severe form of ultra-conservative Islamic rule.
“It’s not clear who would come out on top, but political vacuums tend to empower extremists.”
We’ve seen this before in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – no clear good guys, no clear solutions. We need to stay out of this civil war.
Barring any changes to the situation in Syria, I will vote against the current resolution authorizing the president to take military action in Syria. I do not believe that military action will help resolve the civil war in Syria, and it might lead to more chaos and more regional instability.
There is no clear path here, and too much is at risk. I am not against all war, but in order to justify this act, there has to be a threat to national security, a strong strategy and a good possibility of success.
At this moment, I do not believe the situation in Syria meets this criteria, and I fear that the United States could be drawn into a lengthy and deadly conflict.
Make no mistake, the situation in Syria is a tragedy, and the murderous Bashar al-Assad has lost all credibility as the leader of Syria.
However, I believe that the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement.
I believe the world needs to condemn and isolate Assad, while providing more humanitarian aid, helping border countries deal with the refugees and working with our allies as well as Syria’s, which include Russia and Iran, toward a negotiated political solution to this crisis.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter represents New Hampshire’s First District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.