Middle East

In this image taken from video, Free Syrian army fighters fire their weapons during clashes with government forces, unseen, in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (Shaam News Network/AP)

Like most people, I am deeply troubled by the ongoing violence in Syria and horrified by reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. I do not dispute that these despicable attacks against non-combatants were conducted by the Assad regime and that the world is justified in considering action against them. The question for me is this: What is the appropriate response to these atrocities? What action will truly discourage any government from using chemical weapons in the future? Finally, what action will not worsen the always challenging situation on the ground in the Middle East?

I am encouraged that President Obama is seeking Congressional approval before taking military action, and I am convinced, after attending Congressional briefings, that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government, in the past and most recently in the outskirts of its own capital. I am also encouraged by the proposed amendment in the Senate to limit the time frame of any Congressional approach for military action related to this matter. Yet, I am not convinced that the response the president proposes will prevent future attacks or bring any real stability to the region.

I have many questions the briefings simply did not answer:

Will targeted short term strikes be enough to deter future use of chemical or biological weapons by the Assad regime? I fear that any attack a despot survives can be sold as a victory for him. We have all heard the response, “Is that the best you got?”

Will these attacks discourage other nations, such as Iran, from seeking more powerful weapons themselves? When President Bush threatened Iran and North Korea they did not roll over in fear. Iran stepped up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon and North Korea stepped up their quest for long-range missiles to carry the nuclear weapons they already have.

Will such a strike serve to contain the violence within Syria or make it more likely to involve other nations in the region and beyond?

Will strikes against Assad strengthen his enemies? In this civil war, al Qaeda has aligned against Assad – would our strike help al Qaeda?

How would it affect the long term interests of the United States in the region and elsewhere?

How would it impact our allies in the region?

I understand full well that these questions have no simple answers but I believe that they must be fully considered as part of this discussion.

Votes on war and peace are the most consequential ones I take and I will not support military action except as a last resort…

I am trying to keep an open mind and giving the Obama Administration the opportunity to make the case for military action. I consider myself a supporter of the president and agree with him on most issues. I am a longtime friend and supporter of Secretary of State John Kerry and feel that I owe it to him to listen.

I remain wary, however, about becoming entangled in something that may make the situation worse in Syria. As this debate unfolds, I am mindful of the impact that a vote in support of military action will have. It is a vote to potentially send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. Votes on war and peace are the most consequential ones I take and I will not support military action except as a last resort, consistent with our principles and interests.

Congress is expected to vote on a resolution involving Syria in the days ahead. I will carefully review the final language of that resolution as well as all available supporting documentation before making a decision. At this point, I am just not convinced military action is the answer.


Tags: Middle East, Security

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  • Erin

    Delighted to hear your views on this matter. Your reasoning is “spot on” and gives me a bit of relief to know that you will not rush into supporting a limited strike resolution. As you are my Congressman, I recently sent you a msg to that effect: Don’t rush in. Too complicated a situation, even though compelling to act. Unintended consequences abound.

  • Ladis Niedzwiecki

    This is a tough call and the images are so disturbing but so are American Flag draped caskets…Will there ever be peace in the middle east no matter how much life is lost ???
    12 minutes ago · Like

  • Barry Kort

    Let Facts Be Submitted To a Candid World

    The most powerful act any individual can perform is to bear accurate witness.

    On Friday, John Kerry stood up to bear accurate witness as to what transpired in Syria, based on US Intelligence.

    So far so good.

    Now what?

    Now the US — having clearly observed Assad engaging in crimes against humanity — is obliged to act by taking the evidence to the International Court, there to indict and try Mr. Assad and his participating lieutenants on war crimes, under the aegis of International Law.

    This is how the US, being a leader among civilized nations and a leader in the practice of the Rule of Law, demonstrates how a civilized nation operates in accordance with the Rule of Law, as it applies to international law governing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    This is how a Nobel Peace Prize Winner demonstrates how state-sponsored violence is answered with non-violence, under the Rule of International Law.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

  • Patty Nolan

    Thank you for this explanation of your thinking. You were my Congressman. Now we have no representative (I live in Cambridge – the part which shifted to Rep. now Senator Markey. IN light of this odd situation of not having a Congressperson to call, I ask you to support intervention ONLY as part of a coalition of other nations, in conjunction with the United Nations and/or the Arab League. The rationale for the last war – WMD in Iraq – proved to be false. We went it alone and spent billions of dollars we could have deployed at home. Please do not make us less safe by allowing unilateral action.

  • DFinMA

    Don’t attack Syria. It’s stoopid.

  • Kathy Johnson

    Once again, Rep. Capuano, thank you for your thoughtful consideration on this very serious situation…… My own view is that we have an opportunity to break the unending cycle of violence begetting violence begetting violence….. It is time for a coalition of countries to approach Syria with a summit meeting, stating how serious this attack is in the world community and how unacceptable….. using an approach of diplomacy…… also we need to send food to those who are hungry….and medical care…..
    We will not move to peace without making the first move to peace….

  • Geheran105

    The time for military intervention is long past. It may have been an effective response to the situation in Syria that existed when those killed amounted to 200 and the rebels were uncorrupted by Islamists. Now the crisis is far too complex and dangerous for the use of force – for any reason. The president may be right when he asserts that it’s the credibility of the world community that’s on the line. He would be wise to listen.

  • Sofia Perez

    Congressman, I’ve contacted your office twice and not gotten a response. So I am glad to see this go up here. I hope you do not go with your party or your friend John Kerry on this but with your conscience. This idea that we will protect the Syrian population through a limited intervention is foolish and to intervene to protect some putative credibility (which will will lack even more if things get worse) is absurd. To intervene and not be willing to follow up to pacify the country if our intervention results in even more death and suffering is immoral.

  • mikberg

    To say that a military response might not be effective is saying there is nothing we can do. This may be true, but if Assad next kills 10,000 or 100,000 civilians with chemical weapons, won’t you feel guilty that, at least, you didn’t try something to deter him? A military response to Hitler in 1938 might have prevented the need for World War II.

  • MargaretBH

    No matter what we do, we need to first air drop many thousands doses of atropine and other anti-nerve gas agents.that can be self-administered..