Transcript: Sen. Chris Murphy’s explanation on vote against the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government on Sept. 4, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on the joint resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government in response to the use of chemical weapons. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote was held on Sept. 4, 2013.

…This President has been reluctant to bring military force to bear on the conflict in Syria and that frankly reflects a reluctance of the American public. I may differ today with respect to his view on the immediate subject at hand but I appreciate that he has been so careful in reaching the conclusion that he does today.

Mr. Chairman, I voted against this authorization today because I think there are two questions that you have to ask when considering whether to use military force in Syria.

First is whether there is a moral imperative and/or a national security imperative. And I think that Secretary Kerry and the President and others have made that case very well over the past several days.

There’s no one on this committee who doesn’t believe what Bashar al-Assad has done to his people is not atrocious. There are a few of us that also don’t believe that he hasn’t crossed an international red line.

And I also agree that what happens in Syria is important to U.S. national security interest as well as our allies.

The second question I think we all are asking is are the methods that we have before us to try to change the situation on the ground in Syria going to be effective. Are they in fact going to make things better for the Syrian people and for U.S. national security interests or could they make things worse?

And that is what leads to my ‘no’ vote today is that I cannot answer that second question in the affirmative for two reasons.

First, I think there’s a chance that these strikes could actually make the situation worse on the ground in the short run.

And I’ll briefly read a paragraph written by Steven Cook, who’s a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; this was in the Washington Post. He said, “In the face of an attack, Assad would remain defiant. He would probably step up the violence both to assert control within his country and to demonstrate that the United States and his allies cannot intimidate him. At the same time, the regime’s Iranian patrons and Hezbollah supporters would increase their investment in the conflict, meaning more weapons and more fighters, resulting in more atrocities. And on the other side, Syrian opposition groups would welcome the steady stream of foreign fighters who care more about killing Alawites and Shiites than the fate of the country. This environment would heighten Syria’s substantial sectarian, ethnic, and political divisions, pulling the country apart.”

I’ve heard Secretary [John] Kerry say that the one thing we know is that if we do nothing the situation will continue to deteriorate. This, though, sounds even worse.

And I think everyone’s come to different conclusions. I simply believe that the risks of action today outweigh the risks of inaction.

Second, given that this resolution also for the first time commits congressional support for arming the Syrian rebels, I worry that we have now committed ourselves to a level of support that will have to endure past the fall of Bashar al-Assad, that in the event that there is a likely follow-on civil war.

Given the commitments that we’re making today this underlying resolution, it would be difficult for the American government either in an overt or covert manner to untie ourselves from support for the opposition and a follow-on government because of this resolution.

I know none of us want to be involved in a long-term conflict in Syria. I worry that the resolution and authorization today would make it difficult for us to avoid that reality…

I think this language is much better than what was proposed to us in the outset from the administration, and I oppose it not because I don’t gag every time that I look at those photos of young children who have been killed by Assad in his lethal attacks; it’s simply because I have deep concerns about the limits of American power.


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One Comment on “Transcript: Sen. Chris Murphy’s explanation on vote against the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution to authorize military force against the Syrian government on Sept. 4, 2013

  1. Pingback: Syria: Chemical Weapons | What The Folly?!

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