Well-defined Middle East policy needed

Posted September 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

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Good Day,

As of this writing, Congress has yet to vote on President Obama’s request for authorization to launch military action against the Assad regime in Syria, and the President has now asked Congress to delay any decision. When the President first indicated he would seek Congressional approval, I pledged that I would listen to the thoughts and concerns of the citizens of Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District regarding this important issue.

Our office hosted a conference call to give citizens the opportunity to voice their opinions on possible U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict. Our team polled callers and we found that 97 percent of those who offered their views expressed opposition to U.S. involvement.

I had previously stated that I have concerns about the President’s plan to strike Syria and I reiterated those concerns on our call. While there appears little doubt that the Assad regime is engaged in atrocities against its own people, I outlined seven concerns I have with the U.S. launching military strikes against Syria: 1) By all indications, there is no direct U.S. interest in the situation in Syria; 2) U.S. military objectives have not been made clear by the Obama Administration; 3) The Obama Administration has not made clear our goals for Syria and for that part of the world. We need a well-defined Middle East policy; 4) Military action in Syria would come at a cost the United States cannot afford. At a time when the sequester and other defense cuts are taking their toll on America’s military, it is not wise to commit U.S. defense resources to any situation without knowing the end-game; 5) Retaliation could become a reality. We do not know whether Syria, if attacked by the U.S., would retaliate against us or one or more of our allies in the Middle East; 6) If Syria comes under fire by the U.S., other countries in the region that have an interest in Syria might feel obliged to engage and thus, escalate the conflict; and 7) There is no clear cut ally that is pro-American in the conflict.

All of these concerns must be addressed by President Obama and his Administration before Congress authorizes any action. To authorize action without these important questions being addressed would be irresponsible on the part of Congress and would be an abdication of our responsibility to the citizens we represent.

I listened intently to what President Obama had to tell the country this week when he addressed the country on Syria. For the time being, the President has stated his intention to give diplomacy a chance, though he insists he is ready and willing to engage the United States in a military confrontation should this diplomatic effort fail. After hearing his comments, I remain unconvinced of the wisdom of the U.S. launching a military attack on Syria.

I thank all the citizens of our district who took part in our conference call or who have expressed their feelings through telephone calls, emails, letters, and faxes to our offices in Washington and throughout the district. I value the input and will consider all the comments my office has received and continues to receive as I have the opportunity to cast MO-4’s vote in this critical time.

Americans commemorated a somber day in our history – September 11, 2001 – the day terrorists attacked our country, crashing two hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon. A plan to use a fourth hijacked plane as a missile to destroy the U.S. Capitol was foiled by a group of patriots who forced the airliner to crash into a field in Pennsylvania. On Patriot Day, America paused to honor the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

And, as we observed Patriot Day 2013, we also remembered the four brave Americans who lost their lives in service to their country one year ago when terrorists launched an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, murdering U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. We will always remember those who were lost and strive to remain vigilant and guard the freedom so selflessly secured by patriots of long ago and patriots of today. May their actions inspire courage anew today and always.

On September 11th, in honor of Patriot Day, I joined my Congressional colleagues and the USO to assemble 2,500 care packs for our wounded, ill and injured troops.