I was surprised by the positions being staked out on the authorization of force in Syria by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Brian Schatz, who will face each other in the 2014 Democratic primary for Senate.
Hanabusa issued a statement last week which is somewhat ambiguous. While stopping short of saying she opposes the authorization of military force, her statement certainly leaves that impression. She stressed that military action “lacks a solid legal basis” and does not have wide support. She also points back to Iraq and Afghanistan as arguments against rushing in and notes a number of problems with military intervention.
As it stands now, U.S. military involvement in Syria lacks a solid legal basis, a clear long-term strategy, and vital international and domestic approval. Though intelligence has been presented by the Obama Administration, I am not convinced that it serves the purpose of justifying military force or other intervention in Syria. This is an issue that deserves a rigorous and transparent debate about its ends and its means.
The last decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated what comes of war waged with poor planning. Faulty intelligence on WMDs drew us into a bloody struggle in Iraq. Our friends in Great Britain remembered this, and have taken a reserved approach to Syria. I believe it will likewise serve our national interests for President Obama to seek thorough and ongoing Congressional consultation, and await a full review of evidence presented by the UN before considering action in Syria.
But she ends by simply calling for “a rigorous and transparent debate,” leaving us to wonder what position she will ultimately take. For now, though, she has not jumped on the war bandwagon.
ABC News picked up Hanabusa’s statement:
Some members also seem weary of any military intervention in Syria given the uncertainty of the intelligence coupled with the unpleasant lesson many experienced with Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
“The United States must remain cautious and pragmatic in our response,” Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, warned in a statement. “The last decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated what comes of war waged with poor planning. We cannot haphazardly enter another conflict with a sovereign nation. Questions still remain about the identity and intentions of the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime, and I believe we need clear answers before moving forward.”
On Saturday, Schatz issued a brief, two paragraph press release under the title, “Congress Must Review the Facts.”
It shows none of the awareness of specific issues and problems posed by the president’s call for a military attack, instead relying on somewhat empty phrases.
I will continue to participate in briefings with the President’s senior national security advisors and reviewing relevant intelligence in order to give this decision the serious consideration it deserves.
Well, yeah, but that’s not a statement that rises to the seriousness of the occasion, in my view at least.
Civil Beat reported Schatz’s position evolved over several days.
On Friday, Schatz responded with moral indignation after the administration said the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on its own citizens, and seemed to embrace President Barack Obama’s threat of military action.
“The President and his national security team have provided strong evidence that the Assad regime is responsible for the recent horrific chemical weapons attack against innocent Syrian civilians,” Schatz said in a statement. “We must send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and will not be tolerated by the United States or the international community.”
By Sunday, however, Schatz had released a second, more circumspect statement. Though his aides strongly disputed the notion Tuesday that the senator had changed his position, the second statement was decidedly different in tone from the first. Gone was a call for “sending a message.”
“Congress must weigh in,” he said. “And this decision should spur an important debate, allowing us to review the facts. Most importantly, this assures the country that the gravity of taking military action is weighed fully before decisions are made.”
So Schatz doesn’t come out and clearly support the military option, but his stated position is short on any concerns that would justify his standing against the Senate leadership on this one.
Hanabusa’s office sent out an email blast with her statement calling for “rigorous and transparent” debate on Syria action, along with campaign emails about the upcoming budget battle in the House and a shout-out to the UH football and volleyball teams playing over the weekend. The Schatz campaign was active with several email messages on other issues. Nothing, though, regarding Syria.
Congresswoman Hanabusa comes out ahead in this exchange so far by displaying an explicit awareness of many of the complex issues that the proposed military intervention raises, although her ultimate vote remains in doubt.
Update: The Star-Advertiser has cited an AP report that Senator Schatz “says he intends to oppose a Senate resolution authorizing the use of U.S. military force in Syria.”
“Schatz said this afternoon that while he is outraged by Assad’s use of chemical weapons, he believes a military strike is not the answer,” the newspaper reports.