A Republican View: U.S. Military Should Play No Role In Syria

Some in Congress believe sending aid to Syria's opposition forces will drag the U.S. into a war it can't win. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., about his adamant stance.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now we're joined by Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California. He's chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. Mr. Rohrabacher, thank you for being with us.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: My pleasure.

SIMON: You've just heard Congressman Engel talk about he believes U.S. ought to arm the Free Syrian Army and perhaps what he called, I think, strategic airstrikes down the road to protect civilian populations. What do you think about that?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I think Eliot is a very well-intended person but we know where the pathway leads that is lined with good intentions; leads right over the cliff. And haven't we learned our lesson yet? The spirit of what he was saying was said when we went in to eliminate that bloody bum Saddam Hussein. And what a mistake that was. And we should just have learned our lesson from that and stay out of this unless we absolutely have to get in these type of conflicts.

SIMON: What about the argument, congressman, that Syria only agreed to destroy its chemical weapons and then they are way behind the agreed-upon schedule for that. When the United States said that airstrikes were a possibility, when President Obama said in fact that he felt that airstrikes would be a good idea then change course on that. Did you think that kind of - and I'll call it a threat - would help mollify Bashar al-Assad now?

ROHRABACHER: Well, I think the fact that our president, President Obama, made a threat that he had no intention of following through on has put us in a very bad spot. It would have been better for us to stay out of it totally and not to make that kind of threat, not to draw a red line in the sand. 'Cause now he has destroyed his ability to maybe solve problems in the future, you know, by taking a tough stand and people knowing that he's going to follow through. Now, they don't know what that means. So, no, actually I don't see why the United States has to go all over the world and telling every dictatorship if we find out if you've got the wrong kind of weapons here that what are we going to be using military action to disarm you of those weapons. That's not our job.

SIMON: Well, but that does that raise the question, congressman? What is our job in the world? What is the responsibility of the United States when there is somebody in power who slaughters his own people?

ROHRABACHER: Well, that means about half the governments on the planet are something we should go and try to eliminate. Unless those governments are a threat to the people of the United States of America or really a threat to the region and a lot of other governments in a given area of the world, it's none of our business. And, yes, we should try to help people who are struggling for democracy. But that does not include having to arm all of those people, or especially it doesn't mean that we should be doing their fighting for them, that we should have airstrikes conducted with American pilots involved in eliminating internal tyranny. Unless you have a situation where it's very clear that one side is for democracy and more of a peaceful world and the other side is just a bloody dictatorship allied with America's enemies, well, we shouldn't get involved in those situations unless we have that that kind of dichotomy.

And in here in Syria we definitely don't, where we have frankly bad guys on both sides. And, I'm sorry, I think there were always bad guys on both sides in this fight. We can go around all over the world. There are horrible things happening but it's not our job to be the policemen of the world. I hope that we have learned our lesson. And having our president say he's going to draw this line in the sand and then doing nothing, we should make it clear that we will use force when our interests are at stake but we're not going to get involved with policing everybody in the world.

SIMON: Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California. Thanks very much for being with us.

ROHRABACHER: All right. God bless.

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