We are no stranger to global conflicts that require our nation’s attention and resources. However, the question we have recently been faced with is what is our appropriate role in Syria? Confirmation that Bashir Assad’s regime used sarin nerve gas against civilians, killing more than a thousand Syrian citizens in the process, defines the gravity of the situation. The use of chemical weapons, banned by international law for over 100 years, is a crime against humanity. There certainly is a need for world powers to intervene, but the challenge is finding that right course of action.
President Obama has been making the case that the only way to assert U.S. power is to send the Assad regime a message of military intervention, but like our allies and the majority of American people, I am unconvinced this is the right approach. It is easy to get involved but much more difficult to pull back.
Over the past three weeks our offices have been flooded with calls, emails and letters, many from Arkansans who have never reached out to us before, who are concerned about our role in this civil war. The responses have been in overwhelming opposition to using military intervention.
"I fought in Vietnam and my son has served in Kosovo and fought in Afghanistan — and we would willingly sacrifice ourselves for the vital national interests of our country and for the protection of our families — but not for this proposed fiasco," wrote one Arkansan.
"I understand the atrocity committed but without full UN support and full ally support this is a huge mistake. Please give diplomacy a chance before we get into another war we can’t afford," wrote an Arkansan from west-central Arkansas.
Arkansans remain unconvinced that military force is the best way to resolve this issue or that it would successfully prevent Assad from further brutal attacks on civilians. I agree that the President has not convinced us that his plans will be effective, that he has an end-game and that we can be confident of the real intentions of the rebels. I shared the concerns of Arkansas residents with my colleagues and remain opposed to U.S. military force in Syria.
In his address to the American people, President Obama continued to float the option of U.S. military intervention despite the overwhelming global opposition, but there are other options.
A plan for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, initiated by Russia and agreed to by Syria, has the potential to take these weapons of mass destruction out of Assad’s hands. We should be skeptical of any deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad, a deal Putin now appears to be hedging, but we need to pursue a diplomatic resolution.
The American people are weary of becoming involved in another U.S. military engagement. We should pursue other strategies that we can use to punish Assad.