McCain: Boots on the ground in Syria is ‘worst thing US could do’

Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ).
Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ).
Cliff Owen/AP Photo

Lawmakers continued to call on the White House to take action on Syria, but even one of the GOP’s more hawkish members stopped well short of calling for the president to put U.S. troops on the ground.

“The worst thing the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground on Syria,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “That would turn the people against us.”

McCain instead suggested the U.S. help arm the rebels, come to the aid of refugees, and work to secure the chemical weapons in question along with the aid of an international coalition. He said the refugee crisis could turn against Americans if the country doesn’t act soon.

“I was in refugee camp in Jordan and there are thousands of people and kids,” And this woman who’s a school teacher said, ‘Senator McCain, you see these children here? They’re going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them. They’re angry and bitter.’ And that legacy could last for a long time too unless we assist them.”

Lawmakers are closely watching President Obama after the White House confirmed last week that U.S. intelligence reports indicated chemical weapon use against the Syrian people– an action that the president has previously defined as a “red line.”

McCain was hardly the only one this weekend championing  for a harder line on Syria.

“The world is watching. We’ve got 70,000 dead people in that part of the world as a result of Bashar al-Assad. We, as America, have never let something like that happen before. We’ve taken action,” House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said Sunday.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that if the United States does not intervene, Syria is “going to become a failed state by the end of the year.”

The White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have both said publicly that while evidence points to use of the chemical weapons, questions remain over who ordered the use, and where and when the attacks occurred.

The White House is seeking to answer these questions before taking action.

“It’s precisely because we take this red line so seriously that we believe there is an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria,” a White House official said last week.

[workbenchVideo: 51693253]

McCain: Boots on the ground in Syria is 'worst thing US could do'