In an interview with Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) laid out a case against military intervention in Syria and said that not only is the U.S. unlikely to affect the outcome of the current conflict between Syrian Pres. Bashar al-Assad and rebels the rebels who oppose his regime, but that no one knows exactly what would happen after the raid.
Grayson said in the piece, which appeared on Saturday, that the Obama administration is operating on the assumption that Russia, Iran and Syria itself will take no retaliatory action, and went on to question the accuracy of the intelligence that the administration has received with regards to the situation on the ground in the unstable Middle Eastern republic.
“The one thing you can be sure of in warfare is you can’t be sure of anything,” he said.
“(T)here’s a substantial amount of hubris here,” alleged the Florida congressman. “They think they know where the targets are, they think they know how to hit it with enough force but not too much force, they think they know how the Russian and the Iranians will react. We cannot determine all this. On some level, we’re assuming the reaction from Russia and Iraq and Syria will be zero: We’ll carry out this attacks, and there’ll be no response.”
“This is a bit of a sensitive subject, but the administration has been honest that they have no smoking gun that the attack was ordered by Assad. The evidence of his involvement is circumstantial,” he continued. “We’re two years into a civil war that he’s winning. The Russians and Iranians have told him not to use chemical weapons. Hezbollah has told him not to use chemical weapons because their fighters are at risk. So he’s winning, there’s scant and circumstantial evidence that he ordered the attack. Why are we gaming out his incentives when we don’t know he ordered it?”
This position would fly in the face of the current conventional wisdom in Washington, which considers the chemical attacks an act of the Assad regime proper, not rogue elements within it.
Klein raised the question of what he calls the “meta-argument” for invading Iraq, that having drawn the hypothetical “red line” before the world, “America’s potency on the world stage will be greatly harmed if we permit the red line to be clearly crossed without serious reprisal.”
Grayson scoffed at the idea, saying, “That’s ridiculous: Every country in the world understands that upon the president’s command, we could turn it into a field of molten glass. There is simply no need for that kind of analysis. And by the way, if that kind of analysis was a real thing, we wouldn’t talk about red lines or purple lines or green lines. That’s vague. You’d say if you do X, we will do Y. The president didn’t say that, and that unfortunately has led us into another ambiguous situation.”
Grayson’s prescription for the region is to provide humanitarian aid for the refugees who have streamed out of the country.
“Nobody is saying we should do nothing,” he said. “But the reason why the administration won’t go to the U.N. is because they’d lose the vote. Even [President George W.] Bush took a stab at getting U.N. authorization for the war in Iraq. The president isn’t doing the same even as he claims to be acting on behalf of the international community.”
When asked whether he believes that the White House will get the votes it needs in Congress to pass a resolution in favor of military action in Syria, Grayson said no. Not only is the administration losing the proposition in Congress, he said, but the public is also against it. With the public so closely watching the president’s decision, Grayson asserted, there will be no way to hedge or finesse the matter, either.
He asked, “When has the White House ever — ever — been able to turn around a vote? It hasn’t happened in the entire Obama administration; much less happened when the constituent mail is running 100-1 against. When nobody is paying attention, anything is possible. The president can offer you favors or employ moral suasion or enlist lobbies. But the public is watching and is extremely angry about the president’s position. In that kind of environment, the president doesn’t even have the tools.”