Few Iraq and Afghan War Vets in House Support Syria Strikes

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

Hawaiian Democrat Tulsi Gabbard became the latest post-9/11 military House vet to oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria on Monday.

“As a soldier, I understand that before taking any military action, our nation must have a clear tactical objective, a realistic strategy, the necessary resources to execute that strategy—including the support of the American people—and an exit plan,” announced Gabbard, a medical operations specialist who served in Iraq. “The proposed military action against Syria fails to meet any of these criteria.” She also wrote a military strike would be a “serious mistake.”

Of the 87 congressmen who have served in the military, 16, according to the Hill, are veterans of the post 9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only two have said they support military intervention—Republican Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Tom Cotton of Arkansas—and seven Congressmen are firmly in the “NO” column. 

A majority of Americans believe that sending troops to Iraq was a “mistake,” according to Gallup, and 44% of the American public, an all-time high, thinks that U.S. military action in Afghanistan was a mistake too. Syria at the outset is less popular than those wars, and every other U.S. military action Gallup has polled in the last 20 years.

The 16 post 9/11 military vets in the House can be broken down into four camps on Syrian intervention: “Yes,” “Undecided,” “Likely No,” and “No.”

YES

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in a Washington Post op-ed co-written with Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas):

Core U.S. national security interests are implicated in Syria, more so than ever byAssad’s use of chemical weapons…Iran andHezbollah are sending Assad thousands of ground troops and weaponry to fight the rebels. Their involvement has turned the tide in Assad’s favor in recent months. Russia continues to side with these rogue states and terrorist organizations, following Vladimir Putin’s pattern of gratuitous and unpunished affronts to U.S. interests.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

I wonder in 20, 10, 50 years, what are we going to say if we did nothing about the gassing of thousands of people in Syria?

UNDECIDED

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) in the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Before possibly committing the U.S. military, we must ensure that our military objectives are clearly outlined and attainable. It is imperative that outlined goals are achievable through military action…This is a serious decision and not one I take lightly. Ultimately, my decision will come down to whether I believe military action in Syria is in the best security interests of the United States.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) in the Mansfield News Journal:

I start with a high bar (Obama) will have to meet for me to vote for the use of military force.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

I’m undecided at this point. There are three questions that I will be asking during the debate on Syria before making my decision. The first is how strong is the evidence that the Assad regime directed a chemical attack against civilians? The second is whether a limited strike would be effective in deterring Assad from the further use of chemical weapons? My third question will be whether a limited strike could ultimately drag the United States into an intractable sectarian civil war in Syria?

LIKELY NO

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

As a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe that the use of U.S. military force should be selective, based on America’s national security interests.  Thus far, President Obama has failed to clearly define America’s national security interests in Syria or explain how a limited cruise missile strike would contribute to achieving our strategic objectives. I look forward to hearing the President’s case, but right now I’m skeptical.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in the Patriot-News

I understand the portion of American leadership across the world, but in this case, I feel like there is not an immediate direct American interest in Syria to get involved in civil war…Financially, it puts a burden on the U.S. where lot of folks have been decrying military involvement for years and now they are happy to join the bandwagon and say the financial implications don’t matter when it’s their side that’s doing it.

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)

Many of my constituents and I are deeply skeptical of the President’s stated desire to launch an attack on Syria.  I look forward to hearing the President’s case and reviewing the intelligence. However, the President has a lot of work to do to convince Arkansans and me that U.S. military action is appropriate in this instance.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

Thus far, the Administration has not provided a persuasive argument for military intervention. In fact, the only substantive statement issued by the White House was that it does not intend to use military force for the purposes of regime change, and that it seeks only to “punish” the Assad regime for its use of chemical weapons. I don’t take the commitment of U.S. forces lightly, especially when there is no identifiable vital national security interest. In light of the ongoing conflict, I believe that Congress must continue to evaluate the events and proceed with caution, so as to avoid the unintended consequences of military action.

NO

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

I am sickened and outraged by the carnage and loss of lives caused by the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  It is with gravity that I have carefully considered all the facts, arguments, and evidence and soberly weighed concerns regarding our national security and moral responsibility. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that a U.S. military strike against Syria would be a serious mistake. I will therefore vote against a resolution that authorizes the use of military force in Syria.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) 

I don’t know if they are actual rebels or whether they are terrorists…If I could guarantee that everyone who comes to get weapons that we would provide was actually a legitimate rebel and not al-Qaida, then I would be more supportive of it.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) in the Detroit News:

I will be voting against military action in the Middle East because the president has failed to make a case that the Syrian civil war threatens our country or our allies.

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)

While I appreciate this opportunity and the time Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and General Dempsey gave the committee today, I do not feel that they made the case for military action in Syria. Today’s hearing resulted in more questions than answers. While I look forward to continuing this debate in the House, I cannot support the president’s request for authorization based on what we heard today.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

I do not support authorizing President Obama to use military force in the Syrian civil war at this time. The Obama administration has not articulated a clear objective for using military force in Syria, much less a plan to achieve that objective. This is all the more problematic given the realities of a Syrian civil war in which Assad’s dictatorship (supported by Iran and Hezbollah) is fighting so-called rebels that are populated with Sunni Islamic supremacists and Al Qaeda fighters.

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.)

I hope my colleagues will fully think through the weightiness of this decision and reject military action. The situation on the ground in Syria is tragic and deeply saddening, but escalating the conflict and Americanizing the Syrian Civil War will not resolve the matter. As a 29-year veteran of the United States military with multiple combat tours, it is my judgment that military intervention would make it worse and make us responsible for that conflict.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) to the Washington Times:

I think he’s [President Obama] breaking the law if he strikes without congressional approval…And if he proceeds without Congress providing that authority, it should be considered an impeachable offense.

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