The Hill charges that Sensators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are “singing a different tune from just months ago, when both seemed to advocate a more muscular U.S. response to Syrian President Bashar Assad.”
The Hill bases the charge on Cruz’s June 20 statement:
We need to be developing right now a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out. The United States should be firmly in the lead to make sure the job is done right.
Cruz declared yesterday he would vote against the Senate’s resolution authorizing military force.
Cruz’s staff says The Hill ignored the facts that the office provided them regarding the senator’s stance on Syria. They argue that Cruz has always been open to military action to secure chemical weapons, but he’s deeply wary about action that is designed to punish an “international norm” or arming the Syrian rebels.
They point to three statements in recent weeks.
First, an interview with Sean Hannity, August 26:
CRUZ: Number two, our concern should be those chemical weapons, preventing them from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, preventing them from falling into the hands of Al Qaida, that should be guiding our actions, not expressing some moral outrage from a university facility lounge. . . . If Assad is toppled and replaced by a radical Islamist regime, what would be truly dangerous for the United States, for our allies like Israel and Jordan, is for a radical Islamic government to seize control of those chemical weapons and to deploy them against us or our allies. That should be the focus of the President, and as we’ve seen throughout the Middle East that has not been the focus of the President.
Then a released statement from August 31:
Assad’s murderous actions have claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand of his own people, which is a humanitarian tragedy. But our chief strategic concern should not be international norms; it should be preventing the chemical weapons from falling into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists who might use them against us and our allies.
Finally, an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post:
It is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America . . .
Today, the threat is active in Syria, where jihadists have infiltrated the rebel groups while Hezbollah is supporting Assad, making the presence of chemical weapons in Syria ever more perilous. And it is active in Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism that seeks a nuclear bomb to wipe the United States and Israel off the map.
If the president’s proposed military strike against Assad succeeds, al-Qaeda could be strengthened and terrorists could seize control of Syria’s vast cache of chemical weapons.
U.S. military force should always advance our national security. Should we in the future have intelligence that al-Qaeda or Hezbollah is on the verge of acquiring chemical weapons or that Iran is nearing a nuclear breakout, I would support aggressive military action to prevent them from acquiring those weapons because the alternative is unacceptable: allowing Islamic extremists to acquire chemical or nuclear weapons that could be used to slaughter millions in New York or Los Angeles or London or Tel Aviv.
On Rubio, The Hill summarizes:
Last week, he voted against the Syria strike resolution approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But in April, when Assad was first accused of using chemical weapons, Rubio said, “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end.”
If a lawmaker doesn’t like “passive engagement,” but then is presented with a military-force authorization that is equally problematic or worse, is he obligated to support it?