WASHINGTON – In his Tuesday night address to the nation, President Obama made an impassioned humanitarian case for U.S. intervention in Syria, but failed to provide compelling evidence of a national security interest, according to Sen. Deb Fischer.
“Military action must be reserved for situations where there is a clear national security interest,” Fischer said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “I will not support any military action at this time.”
The Nebraska Republican had previously expressed deep skepticism about the prospect of U.S. military action in Syria but reserved a final decision until after Obama spoke to the country.
The Obama administration has said it is clear that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons Aug. 21 in the suburbs of Damascus. Obama invoked the horrific images from that night during his address from the East Room of the White House.
“Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas,” Obama said. “Others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath. A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk. On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits — a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war.”
He also sought to demonstrate why America's own interests are at stake.
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” he said. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.”
His arguments have found little traction among Capitol Hill lawmakers. None of those representing Nebraska and Iowa has offered support for U.S. military action in Syria at this point.
Fischer said Obama's prime-time speech “did little to clarify the president's muddled foreign policy” and criticized him for “pinball diplomacy.”
“Unfortunately, what we've seen from this commander-in-chief so far has been indecision, verbal gymnastics and a reluctance to step up and lead,” Fischer said.
Fischer cited conflicting statements from administration officials.
“It's no wonder that Americans don't have much confidence in the president's military strategy,” she said. “They are tired of being told one thing only to learn later it's not entirely true.”
Still, she stressed the importance of the administration pushing Russia to make good on its offer to help remove chemical weapons from Syria.
A reporter asked why that would be important, if Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles don't represent any compelling national security interest for the United States.
“It's an issue of credibility,” Fischer said. “It's (Obama's) credibility, it's the credibility of our country.”