By Jacob Misener

Fischer, Smith offer their stances on intervention following Syrian chemical weapons attacks


Daniel Thompson

Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) listens to a question during a town hall event in Kimball earlier this summer. Smith has stated that he is unconvinced the deal worked out between the U.S. and Russia will be an effective option.

Last weekend, the United States and Russia reached a deal on dismantling Syria’s chemical arms in the aftermath of a series of attacks that left some 1,400 Syrian civilians dead, including several hundred children.

The agreement calls for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed from the country or destroyed by the middle of 2014. It also placed American plans for limited airstrikes on an indefinite hold, something that Nebraskan congressional representatives have voiced their concerns about.

“Nebraskans, and people across the country, have been reaching out to their elected representatives to express their concerns about the unintended consequences of military action,” wrote Congressman Adrian Smith in his latest ‘Washington Report’ column. “(These include) the potential for an open-ended conflict, retaliation by the regime against our allies in the region, and helping an opposition in Syria which includes extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda.”

The Obama administration had previously sought Congressional approval for a limited military intervention against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Under that framework, no American soldiers would have set foot in Syria on combat operations and the entire mission would have been limited to 60 days, with the potential for another month-long extension.

Even at this point in deliberations, United States Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) stood against any type of directionless attack. Although she is sympathetic with the victims of the attacks, she strongly believes there must be more to the attacks to warrant the U.S. using military force.

“I agree that any use of chemical weapons, particularly on civilians and children, is, as Secretary Kerry stated, a ‘moral obscenity’,” Fischer wrote in her weekly column. “But I also believe that military action must be reserved for situations where there is a clear national security interest.”

The argument put forward by Fischer was echoed throughout Congress, especially in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had voted 10-7 in favor of limited action against military target, which cleared the way for a full Senate vote on the matter.

“I will be assessing the President’s plans, along with the resolution, to determine if there are clearly defined goals,” said Fischer of the Obama administration’s initial military proposal. “I want to know what success will look like, and so do Nebraskans.”

The United States had faced mixed reaction from the international community concerning its proposal, with fellow U.N. Security Council member Russia emerging as a key player in the movement going forward.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, played a major role in deterring military intervention in Syria, which is one of its key allies in the region. In an op-ed in the New York Times last Wednesday, Putin urged caution when determining the course of action concerning Syria.

“It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts has become commonplace for the United States,” he wrote. “Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

Representative Smith still remains unconvinced the current proposal, which is largely based on one put forth by Russia last week, is a major improvement over the Obama administration’s plan to utilize military force in Syria.

“By speaking out the American people slowed what was a rush to war, and forced the President and some lawmakers to more carefully consider their options,” Smith wrote. “I am also skeptical the Russian proposal to seize chemical weapons would be effective. Russia is closely allied with the Syrian regime, and both sides of this war are likely to continue the bloodshed with or without weapons of mass destruction.”

The war is estimated to have killed over 100,000 Syrians over the past two-plus years, according to human rights organizations. There have been several reports of chemical weapons being used in recent months, and the attack that prompted U.S. response was confirmed by United Nations inspectors earlier this week.

Details will continue to emerge following last weekend’s announcement of a deal between the former Cold War adversaries. Syria has until the end of the week to provide a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical arsenal.


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