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A key Republican said Wednesday he cannot support U.S. military action against Syria without a larger regional strategy and larger defense budget.
“I told the administration that I cannot support military action in Syria unless the president presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
He is not saying what Syria is doing is right. “What we are seeing in Syria is abominable as thousands upon thousands of innocent children and families are being murdered while millions more are being driven from their homes,” he said in a statement.
But Inhofe said the Defense Department doesn’t have money for military operations and shouldn’t start something without a strategy and budget.
“Our military has no money left.,” Inhofe said. “Will the president pay for this operation with more furloughs and by grounding squadrons again?”
Inhofe’s comments come as the White House has begun talking with key lawmakers about options for military action, which observers say could come at any time.
“We cannot simply launch a few missiles and hope for the best,” Inhofe said. “It is vital we avoid short-sighted military action that would have little impact on the long-term trajectory of the conflict.”
Other lawmakers, though, are ready for action after reports that Syria has used chemical weapons against its own citizens.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said, “The world must respond.”
Smith suggested expanded and accelerated support for “moderate elements” of the Syrian opposition and help for neighboring countries who might suffer from the spillover effects of the civilian war.
“To be clear, I am not calling for an open-ended commitment to remove the Assad regime, but that does not mean we cannot act in a way that is consistent with our interests and values,” Smith said.
Smith also said expectations should be kept in check.
“We should be under no illusion that [U.S.] aid will significantly influence the outcome of the struggle against Assad,” he said. “But the Free Syrian Army exists, and we must be better positioned to combat extremism. They can help us in the future, but only if we help them first.”
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, “Civilized people should be outraged by the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians and the many more who have been maimed in this horrible civil war. The Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians is morally repugnant and violates long held standards of conduct.”
Burr, though, doesn’t want U.S. ground combat troops involved.
“Short of putting troops on the ground, it is time for the United States and our NATO allies to take necessary, punitive military action against the Syrian regime and send a clear signal to its leadership, and others in the region who may be contemplating using weapons of this nature, that there are consequences for these actions,” he said.