In one of his fleetest flip-flops ever, John Kerry today told a Senate committee that the administration would not want any prohibition on the use of ground troops in a congressional resolution on Syria, before reversing himself minutes later and saying such a measure would be fine.
“This authorization does not contemplate and should not have any allowance for troops on the ground — I just want to make that absolutely clear,” the secretary of state said in response to a question from Marco Rubio (though the White House’s draft resolution clearly would empower the president to deploy ground troops in connection to Syria’s chemical weapons, and the Senate will have to add such an amendment itself). Referring to his earlier objections, he said, ”What I was doing was hypothesizing a potential — it might occur at some point in time — but not in this authorization.”
“There is no problem in our having the language that has zero capacity for American troops on the ground within the authorization the president is asking for,” he continued.
Earlier in the hearing, when asked by committee chairman Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), Kerry said “it would be preferable not to” have the resolution now before Congress rule out the use of ground troops. He argued it would be important to have the authority to deploy troops in the event that Syria “imploded” or chemical weapons fell into the hands of terrorist groups, jeopardizing the United States or its allies — meaning he was considering a hypothetical situation, but speaking about the boundaries of the current resolution.
After Kerry clarified his comments about the ban on ground forces, Menendez said, “I can assure you that’ll be in the resolution.”