Tom Perriello Weighs In On the Syria Situation


    At The Atlantic, former Rep. Tom Perriello – one of the people I respect the most in the world of politics, and no that is NOT a backhanded compliment! – weighs in on what he thinks should be done regarding Syria. Definitely read the entire interview, but here are a few key quotes (bolding added by me for emphasis).

    *”While I have advocated for a more aggressive posture that would potentially include regime transition, there is absolutely an argument for inflicting some cost to the regime for the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population.”

    *”There is an interest, not just by us but by the community of nations, in creating a significant disincentive to the use of chemical and biological weapons, which even repressive regimes, on the whole, have treated as off-limits.”

    *”[Assad] has given every indication that he is reading the international community’s willingness to care fairly well. The use of chemical weapons appears to have been a miscalculation, though maybe not, since a lot of people in the U.S. still don’t want to act.”

    *”One of the reasons I came to the conclusion a year and a half ago that we needed to intervene is that both sides appear just strong enough not to lose. That’s what leads to civil war that lasts for years and years, with hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced, and a cancer that spreads through the region.”

    *”There’s a lot of talk about, oh, is this Iraq or is it Rwanda? I tend to agree with the notion that this is closer to Kosovo…”

    *”To me, there are a number of elements that go into whether you intervene in a given situation…The difference between force and violence is legitimacy. As progressives in foreign policy, we tend to believe legitimacy matters.”

    Well reasoned, and well articulated, as is always the case with Tom Perriello.

    P.S. In related news, Hillary Clinton says she “supports the President’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons.”

    • Hot off the presses…

      Van Hollen/Connolly Resolution to Significantly Limit the Scope, Duration and Purpose of the Use of Force to Prevent the Repeated Use of Poison Gas

      Dear Colleague:

      We write to urge your support for our proposal to significantly limit the scope, duration and purpose of an authorization to use military force in Syria. We believe it is in the national security interest of the United States, as well as in support of basic human decency, to enforce the almost 90 year international ban on the use of chemical weapons to prevent the future use of poison gas against innocent civilians in Syria or others, including Americans, in future conflicts. We also believe that — with the exception of the limited purpose of deterring the use of poison gas — it would be be against our national security interests for the United States to become directly engaged militarily in the ongoing Syrian Civil War.

      We believe that the draft resolution presented by the Obama Administration is far too broad and could open the door to large scale military involvement in Syria and the region. We will not support that resolution. We are proposing an alternative which is far more limited in scope, duration, and purpose. Our proposal, which is attached, includes the following four elements:

      — it prohibits any American forces on the ground in Syria;

      — it limits the duration of the authority to 60 days;

      — during that 60 day period, it prohibits the President from repeating the use of force beyond the initial punitive strikes unless the President certifies to Congress that the Syrian forces have repeated their use of chemical weapons;

      — it limits the purpose of military force to the narrow objective articulated by the President, which is to deter the repeated USE  of chemical weapons rather than the broader goal of the stopping the stockpiling or proliferation of a range of weapons. That broader goal is a worthy one, but our proposal would not authorize the use of military force to accomplish it in this instance.  

      We believe that the resolution we are proposing would accomplish the twin objectives of 1) upholding the international ban and deterring the future use of chemical weapons; and 2) narrowing the scope of action to prevent the United States from getting dragged militarily into the Syrian Civil War.  We understand that there are risks to any military action, but we believe those risked are outweighed by the risk of doing nothing in the face of the flagrant violation of international norms that has resulted in the mass killings of innocent men, women and children from poison gas.

      It is our view that a negotiated settlement is the only viable long term solution to the war in Syria that has drawn in proxy powers from throughout the region. We also believe that the goal of a negotiated settlement is entirely consistent with the goal of deterring the horrible use of poison gas against innocent civilians in Syria today and in other conflicts tomorrow.

      Please direct requests to cosponsor or questions to (Rep. Van Hollen x55341) or (Rep. Connolly x51492).


              S                                                                    S

      Chris Van Hollen                                                         Gerry Connolly

      Member of Congress                                              Member of Congress


    • aznew

      While I generally agree with the principles articulated by Tom in this diary, I do not understand our specific national interest (beyond making good on Obama’s “red-line” threat) in preventing the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria to justify some form of military intervention as opposed to, say, the use of conventional bombs against those very same civilians.

      Also, is Tom saying here that the use of chemical weapons against soldiers is acceptable?

      These are the rabbit holes you will eventually go down if you try to define a foreign policy around principle like this. It leads to an irrational result that, ultimately, can result in more deaths.

      Now, this is different from the question of whether the U.S. should intervene in some manner in the Syrian situation. There is a debate to be had there regarding our national interests in the potential spread of instability in the Middle East and whether there is anything we can do about it.

      But to justify hurling some cruise missiles at Assad based on these well-meaning principles while ignoring, say, a much crueler and more extensive genocide  in, say, Chad, makes no sense to me as a matter of policy.

    • amber waves

      He basically calls on the US to withdraw its support from either side in the conflict….and work with Russia and the neighborhood for a political solution.

      The US has painted itself in a corner where it is allied with Al-Nusra and Al-Quaeda. How shrewd is that?