Syria strikes cannot be 'merely cosmetic' say McCain, Graham

Potential U.S. military action in Syria must not be a "merely cosmetic" attempt to reinforce the White House's standing in the world, according to Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

“The purpose of military action in Syria should not be to help the President save face," the senators said in a joint statement Friday. "It should not be merely cosmetic. Instead, the goal of military action should be to shift the balance of power on the battlefield against Assad and his forces."

Any use of American force in Syria must be taken with the intent of "finally [changing] the momentum of this awful and destructive conflict," they said. "This can be done in a limited way, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform."
 
Their comments come as the White House is attempting to garner support from Congress and the international community for military strikes against the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad..

The strikes, according to administration officials, would be in response to the alleged use of chemcial weapons by the Assad regime against rebel forces fighting to overthrow the longtime Syrian leader.

On Friday, U.S. intelligence officials released a declassified report on the details of the chemical attacks earlier this month, in an attempt to bolster support for possible military operations in the country.

Shortly after the release of the report, intelligence officials headed to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers and their staffs on classfied portions of the administration's case for intervention in Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the intelligence findings on the Syrian attacks are “as clear as they are compelling.”

“I'm not asking you to take my word for it. Read for yourself, everyone, those listening, all of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available,” Kerry said.

President Obama on Friday vowed that any U.S. action in the country would be limited, and would not lead to an open-ended committement of American forces in the region.

“We're not considering any open-ended commitment,” Obama said "What we will do is consider options that meet the narrow concern around chemical weapons."

Those reassurances, however, continue to fall on deaf ears among congressional lawmakers and U.S. allies.

Over 140 House members, led by Rep. Scott Rigell, (R-Va.) have signed a letter against any U.S. military action in Syria until Congress grants the White House authority to do so. In addition, 53 liberal Democrats — including a long list of Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members —sent the president a letter urging him to consult with Congress. Some of those Democrats also signed the Rigell letter.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the current fiscal crisis facing the Pentagon has left U.S. commanders unable to afford any kind of military action, in Syria or elsewhere.

"I cannot support military action in Syria unless the President presents to Congress his broader strategy in the region that addresses our national security interests and the budget to support it," the Oklahoma Republican said in a statement Wednesday.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued there is no direct correlation between taking action in Syria and U.S. national security interests.

"The war in Syria has no clear national security connection to the United States, and victory by either side will not necessarily bring into power people friendly to the United States,” Paul said.

Earlier this week, Britsh lawmakers voted down a proposal by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to support American-led operations in Syria.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), head of the Senate defense panel, said Friday that the White House needed to establish firm international support if it is to proceed with Syrian missile strikes.

Levin, who had been a vocal advocate for military operations in Syria, said a strike should not be conducted until United Nations inspectors have completed their work in Syria, and suggested that a robust international coalition — including Arab nations — should back an attack.

Aside from the U.K., other crucial U.S. allies, such as Germany and other NATO members, have also balked at backing military operations in the country.

So far, only France has publicly expressed support for the anticipated U.S. mission.