BOBBY HARRISON: Seeking the common ground on Syria



JACKSON – Perhaps an agreement has been reached where the Syrian government will give up control of its chemical weapons to the international community.

Many people in the know remain skeptical and say they will believe it when it happens. But it seems to be at least worth a shot to pursue that outcome. After all, what reasonable person would be opposed to getting chemical weapons out of the hands of a despot such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who by most accounts has used the poisonous gas on his own people?

It seems safe to assume that Assad would not be talking about the possibility of giving up his chemical weapons if not for the threat of military action by the United States. Why else would he relinquish control of weapons that within the past month he has allegedly used?

At the same time this is going on, the United States Senate and House are prepping to debate – at President Barack Obama’s behest – whether to give the president authority for taking military action against the Syrian government for using the chemical weapons.

No doubt, reasonable minds can disagree on whether the United States should take the military action, which by all accounts would be strategic and would not involve the U.S. military being deployed on the ground in Syria.

But, if Assad gives up control of the weapons without American military intervention, that would seem the best possible outcome.

Yet, at the time that reports of the possible Syrian agreement to give up control surfaced, many members of the Mississippi congressional delegation were going on record as opposed to any military action by the U.S.

Those stating such a position amid reports that Syria might give up control of its chemical weapons cache included U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran and Rep. Alan Nunnelee. Rep. Bennie Thompson reiterated his position as being opposed to the strike.

Sure, that is a reasonable position to take.

But on the surface, to a simple scribe from Mississippi, it seems that at the time when the U.S. is trying to display strength to garner concessions from the Syrian government that for a senator or congressmen to go on record against military action is weakening the hand of the president.

Surely that is not the goal.

Let’s look at what Wicker, a Tupelo Republican, said in 2007 when in the U.S. House instead of the Senate, and debate was ongoing on a resolution criticizing then-President George W. Bush’s Iraq War strategy.

Wicker said he opposes the resolution because it sent the wrong message to America’s enemies.

“I regret to say that enemies like these will be pleased when this resolution passes,” Wicker said on the House floor. “Madam Speaker, let’s send the terrorists a message of strength and resolve. Let’s send a message of support and unity and confidence and appreciation to our troops.”

Is it not at least similar to say that if Congress sends the message that it opposes action in Syria that it would given Assad less of a reason to give up control of his chemical weapons stockpile? Perhaps, at this possible moment the best option for members of Congress, who oppose military action is to remain quiet.

Perhaps that is asking a lot of a politician. In 2002, when Congress voted to authorize war against Iraq – including tens of thousands of Americans on the ground in that Middle Eastern country – Wicker, Cochran and their Republican colleagues and many Democrats were all on board.

The primary reason cited for going to war was Iraq’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. There was no proof of Iraq using those weapons since the early 1990s when they did with a lack of consequences during George H.W Bush term as president.

There is video – gruesome video – of chemical weapons being used recently in Syria.

Is that a reason to bomb Syria? As stated earlier, reasonable minds, no doubt, can disagree on that question.

Obama faces a particularly difficult task because of the complexity of Syria and because much of his political base is less inclined to embrace military action. Normally, Obama’s political opposition, such as Wicker and Cochran, are more inclined to military action like they were in Iraq.

Perhaps, those Obama opponents are saying because of what happened in Iraq during the George W. Bush presidency they are going to be more cautious when supporting the deployment of American military might.

For whatever reason they are pursuing much more due diligence in authorizing military action against Syria than they did in Iraq, which was a much larger endeavor.

But surely, everyone agrees that it is best for Syria not to have chemical weapons.

Contact Capitol Bureau chief Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119.

Click video to hear audio

  • charlie

    The repub position: “Whatever the President does, we will oppose.”

    • guest

      You forgot to add “even if we supported the postion before Obama came out in support of it”.

    • 1941641

      “we will oppose” That’s the only platform Repubs know besides their ongoing “Holier-Than-Thou Wars On Women”!