Obama action against Libya weighs on Syria debate

The Obama administration's forceful intervention in Libya last year is making Republicans think twice about adopting even a symbolic stance against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The White House relied in part on a Senate resolution denouncing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's alleged crimes to justify military action against the regime last year. As the Senate weighs a resolution calling for democratic regime change in Syria, some Republicans are now raising concerns the Obama administration will use it as a backdoor for another attack.

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"If we want to authorize military action, let's do that," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee mark-up of the resolution Thursday. "What I don't want us to do is in a fashion that's not debated to pass a resolution on the floor that allows the administration to do that."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) raised similar concerns.

"I have the same concerns," he said. "We know how things work."

The panel ended up endorsing the resolution, 13-6, with five Republicans and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) voting against.

Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said the situation in Syria was quickly spiraling out of control and the U.S. needed to make its voice heard.

"I think the prospects of a full-fledged civil war are obviously very real," he said.

Kerry said he shared his Republican colleagues' concerns about a backdoor authorization for military action.

"I agree with that," he said. "It should not be."

The resolution, he vowed, wouldn't authorize the administration to broaden its current policy of financial sanctions against Assad and aiding Syrian rebels with communications tools and medical aid.

"There's no growing of the pie," Kerry said. "It's limited to current efforts."

Some Republicans still felt things are going too fast.

"I want to help the right guys," said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho). "I just don't know who the right guys are, and we're certainly not identifying them here."