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McCaskill: ‘Don’t Want to Rule Out’ Troops in Syria


Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator and member of the homeland-security and armed-services committees, stood out this Sunday morning by not rejecting the possibility of deploying U.S. troops to address Syria’s civil war. When host Bob Schieffer asked her and Republican senator Saxby Chambliss about the possibility or necessity of deploying U.S. troops at some point, McCaskill responded, “I don’t think you ever want to rule it out. As Saxby said, this thing has really deteriorated, and it’s not really at a tipping point, so I don’t think you ever want to say absolutely not. Obviously, we don’t want to do that unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Chambliss differed, saying, “I would go further than that, and say absolutely not,” explaining that the U.S.’s air and missile capabilities can accomplish any useful objectives, echoing Senator Lindsey Graham earlier in the program. McCaskill’s comment was a rara avis, as even commentators and politicians favoring greater U.S. involvement in Syria have been careful to dismiss or rule out the possibility of deploying U.S. troops.

McCaskill also explained that “there’s a variety of things that can be considered,” including active humanitarian cooperation with Jordan (the U.S. has sent financial aid, but only deployed very limited numbers of personnel, and those, for military contingency planning, not to aid with the humanitarian situation).

The circumstances under which U.S. troops woudl be deployed aren’t clear — a U.N. peacekeeping operation, likely under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, is not out of the question if Russia and China finally accept Assad’s fate, but U.S. troops do not particpate in such operations except as commanders (the U.S. contributes a huge share of their funding, though). A NATO on-the-ground peacekeeping or peace-making mission is theoretically possible, but was not carried out during the Libyan civil war, despite NATO’s extensive involvement — some allied special forces were put on the ground, but not Americans. The 241 American servicemen killed in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing were there as part of a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, and that event led to their withdrawal and the mission’s abandonment.

Earlier in the segment, McCaskill also pushed for increased diplomatic engagement, saying that “Russia is key here, to bring them around . . . Much as we have to bring China around with North Korea.”