Rep. Scott Holcomb provides smart cautionary comments on the ongoing discussion about possible escalated involvement in Syria.

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One Response to Representative Scott Holcomb on Syria

  1. I appreciate the thoughtful, measured and serious approach shown by Representative Holcomb in his CNN comments and elsewhere. As a fellow veteran of an earlier era of Middle East strife (I served from 1982-1990 as a U.S. Navy pilot, including deployments to the Mediterranean) I think the insights and opinions of people with military service backgrounds provide a special benefit and should carry a special weight in matters such as we face with Syria today.

    I believe that Bashar al-Assad did direct the use chemical weapons in the August events in Syria and I favor providing the President reasonable support and latitude to act militarily and otherwise in response.

    I agree with Scott’s observations about both a healthy public skepticism of intelligence data and that this calls for an equally healthy debate on how we should act as a nation. I do contend with his indication that a primary argument “for” action is “America’s standing” and his inference that decision-making must give especially high influence to the domestic “endgame” inside Syria. While those aspects are indeed part of the complete and wise calculus, this is truly and rightfully about the specific and narrow purpose of flatly and asymmetrically devaluing chemical weapons use to any potential users.

    I agree with Representative Holcomb as to the likelihood that our domestic governing dynamics would limit feared “mission creep”. And regarding U.S. Senator Susan Collins’ insightful question as to “How would we respond to repeat use of bioweapons by Assad?”, my unequivocal answer is that yes, we then apply pre-planned follow-on power.

    Scott brought up and I share his legitimate practical concerns about targeting and the potential tactical effectiveness of strikes, but I believe that the message of our commitment to respond to this nature of foul supersedes the field tactical considerations. This is a message which absolutely can be seen and read by military professionals of all nationalities and cultures, and THEY are the people who in the end, actually pull – or more wisely choose NOT to pull – the triggers on any weapons. Such a command-level separation has been seen to work repeatedly before in military history.

    In Sweden and in Russia this week, the President has been making the point that the “unpopularity” of acting against today’s backdrop (war weariness, prior misinterpretation/misrepresentation of intelligence, domestic economic challenges, etc) does NOT void the moral necessity of acting in this particular case. But I do further agree with Georgia Democratic Rep Holcomb (and another fellow veteran, Illinois Republican Congressional Rep Adam Kinzinger) that the President and Administration as a whole are not – but must – make the case for action more clear and demonstrative to both America and the world.

    The will of the American public, as hopefully correctly expressed through the Congress this week and next, must be respected and deeply considered in what the President decides to do or not do in Syria. And we do not “have to” act only militarily. The reported 90-10 Congressional mail and calls “against” is not to be discounted, however it has to be acknowledged that thankfully, Americans are rarely as vociferous about “calling FOR” war as they are speaking “against” it. In the end though, as I believe Thomas Jefferson stated about matters of governing, representatives in a democracy owe the people not necessarily to precisely mirror them, but to honorably “provide their best judgement”.

    – Jeff