Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor:
Mr. Speaker:Russia’s diplomatic intervention in the Syrian crisis is welcome news – but whether it is real or illusory, the President needs to step back from the precipice he has taken us to.
The President has made his case for war with Syria very clearly: that the United States must punish the use of chemical weapons and if we don’t they are more likely to be used again. He assures us that the strike will be limited and that it will aid moderates fighting the regime. He warns that American credibility is at stake.
The case is clear. It is simply not convincing.
It is possible that an attack on Syria will convince Assad not to use chemical weapons in the future. But it is just as likely to convince him that being in for a penny, he might as well be in for a pound and to unleash his entire chemical arsenal.
It is just as likely that an American strike on Syria will produce a retaliatory strike – possibly by Hezbollah against Israel – requiring a retaliatory strike by Israel, possibly on Iran — in a catastrophic chain reaction.
We don’t know where it will lead, but we can be sure that the morning after the attack we would confront a most uncomfortable irony. In retaliation for Assad killing Syrian civilians with CHEMICAL weapons, the United States will have killed Syrian civilians with CONVENTIONAL weapons, for civilian casualties are an unavoidable tragedy of war.
Who would be our new allies in this war? Islamic forces that are responsible for their own litany of atrocities, including the massacre of Syrian Christians, the beheading of political opponents, summary executions of war prisoners, and acts of barbarity too depraved to be discussed in this forum. We would be aiding and abetting these forces.
We are told that Al Qaeda is not more than a fourth of our new coalition and that the rest are moderates. We were told the same thing about Libya, and the same thing about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The problem with moderates in the Middle East is that there aren’t many of them – and they are quickly overwhelmed in every coalition they attempt.
Nor can such an attack be limited in duration or scope. The fact is, once you have attacked another country, you are AT WAR with that country – and its allies – whatever you wish to call it and whatever you later decide to do. And wars have a very nasty way of taking turns that no one can predict or control. World War I began with a series of obscure incidents that quickly escalated into world war – and the Middle East today is a veritable powder-keg compared to the ante-bellum Europe of a century ago.
Finally, we’re told American credibility is on the line. Chemical weapons ARE barbaric, but this isn’t the first time they have been used – they were used previously in Syria, in the Yemeni civil war, by Iraq against Iran; by the Vietnamese against the Cambodians; and by Libya against Chad.
The only thing unique about this incident is that it is the first time an American President has declared their use to be a “red line.” Our credibility was harmed by a foolish and reckless statement by the President. Let us not further damage it with a foolish and reckless act by Congress.
Wars are not something to be taken lightly. From the podium behind me, General MacArthur warned that in war, there is no substitute for victory. If you are going to start a war, you had better be prepared to put the entire resources of the country behind it, to endure every setback along the way, to utterly annihilate every vestige of the enemy, and to install, by force, a government of our design and choosing and to maintain that government until all opposition has ceased. If you are not willing to do that – then you have no business firing the first shot.
More than a decade of irresolute and aimless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught us this lesson: that victory – and not stalemate – must be the objective of war.
Yet this would be a war whose avowed objective IS stalemate. That is self-defeating and it is immoral.
The President has already made his case very clearly. And he is very clearly wrong.