With the Obama administration weighing appropriate action against Syria in response to chemical attacks, lawmakers are increasingly pushing to be consulted before military actions begin.
But as the White House begins reaching out to Congress Thursday, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says there is already a “compelling case” for action against the country and Bashar al-Assad—and warns that inaction could further endanger national security.
“I do not see a compelling case not to act at the end of the day,” Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez said on Thursday’s The Daily Rundown. “There’s always risk. Look, nothing in Syria is easy. Nothing in Syria has good choices in it. But if you permit a global message that the use of chemical weapons can be done with impunity, then I think you’re buying yourself a much bigger challenge in the world.”
While there is some hesitancy on lawmakers’ part about acting without a UN resolution or the backing of the Arab League, Menendez said there would be others too who would complain if Obama waited too long.
“I’m sure there will be those who clamor now for having a voice and at the same time they’d be critical of the president if he didn’t act,” said the chairman.
“I just believe that inaction ultimately breeds confidence in those who have access to chemical weapons that they can use it without consequence—and that clearly is not in our national interests or in our national security,” said Menendez.
But not all members are fully on board with such swift action. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, also on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Assad regime’s atrocities are nothing new, and that President Obama should come before Congress and the American people before action begins, and cautioned against going it alone.
“What’s the rush at this point in time? We’ve sat and dithered for more than two years,” said Johnson. “The slaughter has been going on for more than two years. Our national security has been at risk in that devolving and degrading situation for two years. Another two weeks, another three weeks to actually get the world to send that message. If it’s just the U.S., that’s not going to be effective. “