President Barack Obama walked a fine line Tuesday night preparing a wary American public about the possibility of military strikes against Syria even as he expressed hopefulness about a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
Ohio lawmakers – who may yet have to vote on the former – remain skeptical.
“This swayed no one,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. “There has to be a national security interest. We have to know who we’re for and a clear understanding of the risks.”
Obama, he said, “has an unexplainable policy. Assad can kill an unlimited number of people, as long as he doesn’t do it with gas.”
Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was also wary of the potential diplomatic solution being hashed out between Russia and Syria, calling the logistics of their proposal possibly “unaccomplishable.”
“Chemical weapons are inherently unstable,” he said. “They cannot be easily transported, nor can they be easily destroyed. Any proposal has to be questioned, especially in light of the fact that these weapons are in a region where there’s an ongoing civil war.”
He said the only feasible solution is for Obama to pull together the international community. “Putin’s offer of intervention may be the only thing to save this president from embarrassment,” he said.
Dayton native Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Twp., began the night undecided on military intervention. The Columbus-area representative ended it undecided as well, but also relieved by Obama’s decision to delay a congressional vote on military intervention.
“It makes a lot of sense to me that we would postpone the vote and look at a third option,” she said, saying she’ll need “a lot more information” before she can support military intervention. She said she was “very hopeful” about the possibility of a diplomatic resolution.
In the Senate, Sen. Rob Portman said he was not prepared to support the current resolution authorizing military force in Syria. He said he did not believe a military strike would prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from employing chemical weapons again and said it would do nothing to stop the civil war. He also said it would do little to create stability in the Middle East.
“It’s time for a change of course,” he said. “We need a comprehensive long-term strategy first, not a strike, then the promise of a strategy which is what the administration has proposed. Strike first, strategy later is a recipe for disaster.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, meanwhile, said he was “encouraged” that the Obama administration was pursuing an international response.
“ We need to continue to seek a diplomatic solution and send a clear message to deter the threat of chemical weapons,” he said.