Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.), the third-ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned on Thursday afternoon that Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), President Obama and others should not be thinking about taking military action against Syria without first putting the question before Congress.

Burton was reacting to comments this week from McCain, who called on airstrikes against Syria to defend rebels against violence from Syrian Presidnet Bashar al-Assad.

"Respectfully, I disagree with the senator from Arizona," Burton said on the House floor. "Our main goal in the Middle East is to protect our interests and the interests of our major ally, Israel.

"If we are to be dragged into a civil war in Syria for humanitarian reasons, I would respectfully remind Sen. McCain and the president that they do not have the power to unilaterally start a war."

Burton argued that the United States is "not the world's policeman," and said it is not the responsibility of the United States to control violence in other countries. "If it were, then bombs should be falling on a number of countries, including Yemen, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, North Korea, Burma, and I could go on and on," he said.

He also added that U.S. involvement in Libya has created pockets of al Qaeda operatives, and said the United States would need to assess the risks of repeating this mistake in Syria.

"Do we really want to undertake a significant military commitment … to create so-called safe havens in Syria to deliver weapons and supplies to al Qaeda fighters from Iraq?" he asked.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday also downplayed McCain's call for military action, saying that it would be "premature" to commit the United States to such action at this point.