Senate

Warren’s difficult Syria decision

Greg Nash


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom many liberal Democrats want to run against Hillary Clinton in 2016, faces a pivotal decision about whether to support arming and training rebels in Syria.

Other liberal Democratic lawmakers have come out against the authorizing legislation for fear it could be a repeat of the 2002 Iraq use-of-force resolution and lead to another protracted military conflict in the Middle East.

{mosads}Warren’s office declined to reveal Thursday morning how she would vote.

The House on Wednesday approved the Syrian language as an amendment to legislation keeping the government funded through Dec. 11. In the Senate, members will vote on that entire package, which could factor into Warren’s decision.

The vote could have significant impact on her presidential aspirations. She says she has no plans to run in 2016, but many liberal Democrats who are dissatisfied with Clinton want to draft her.

Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), a senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, warned Wednesday that President Obama’s military objectives in Syria are not clear and warned that past military authorizations had unintended consequences.

“In regards to Syria, I have serious doubt about authorizing military operation. I think we need to have further clarification from the administration as to the … objectives that they are accomplishing in Syria and we have to be very careful about the authorization of the use of our military in a country where we are not invited,” he said on the Senate floor.

Cardin said few lawmakers thought the authorization of military force against Saddam Hussein’s regime would result in a nine-year war.

“We were told that that was going to be a short campaign, that the might of the military of the United States would make that a very quick operation,” he said. “As we see years later, it took a long time and [we’re] still in Iraq.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), another member of the Foreign Relations panel, raised doubts Thursday that another U.S. military intervention would quash militant Islamic fundamentalism.

“The familiar new problem is the Middle East and if we’ve learned anything of the last 12 years of war, it’s that the Middle East seems largely immune from U.S. efforts to bend it to our will,” he told Secretary of State John Kerry during a hearing.

Murphy warned that Syrian rebels who receive U.S. weapons could form an alliance with affiliates of al Qaeda, the group behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Almost every Democratic senator who had serious presidential aspirations 12 years ago voted for the Iraqi use-of-force resolution. It came back to haunt them repeatedly on the campaign trail. Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) was the one exception. 

Kerry, the former senator from Massachusetts, performed all sorts of contortions during his 2004 presidential campaign to justify his backing of the war. He famously voted for and against an $87 billion bill funding U.S. troops in Iraq.

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Clinton had to constantly fend off criticism of her vote to authorize military action against Iraq. She lost to President Obama, who was not serving in the Senate when it gave a green light to invade Iraq.

Obama emerged as a viable alternative to Clinton in large part because of his opposition to that war.   

Tags Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Syria

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