Middle East

Congress Votes This Week On Military Action In Syria

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President Obama will argue his case to the nation Tuesday evening that the U.S. should make a retaliatory strike in Syria, and the Senate is set to vote on his resolution Wednesday. Host Rachel Martin talks with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who has not decided which way he will vote.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

This coming week will be vital to the White House's effort to win support for a military strike on Syria. On Tuesday night, President Obama will lay out his case in an effort to shift public opinion in favor of a strike. The Senate is set to vote on the president's resolution this week and the House is expected to follow thereafter.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I haven't made a final decision. And I think that's true probably still for the majority of the members of the House.

MARTIN: That's the voice of Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff has been struggling with what path to take on Syria.

SCHIFF: I'm convinced about the evidence. I think there's really compelling evidence that Assad has gassed his own people, and not once but multiple times; this being the worst occasion. I also think that a military strike could have the effect of deterring him from doing it again. But I remain wrestling with this problem because I want to make sure that, as we seek to enforce an international norm, we're not acting alone. And I also want to see the American people brought on board.

It gives me great pause to think about committing our armed forces - even to aircraft sorties or cruise missile strikes - without the support of the American people.

MARTIN: Is doing nothing an option for you?

SCHIFF: Well, doing nothing I think is very problematic. And unfortunately, any course we pick - whether its course of an action or it's the course of a military action - has its perils. The peril, of course, of sitting still is that Assad is emboldened and will continue using chemical weapons perhaps on a greater scale. The other risk, of course, is that we strike and the place goes into complete chaos; we might be violating Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule: you break it and you bought it.

MARTIN: You are back home in your home district in Burbank, California. I imagine you've been hearing from your constituents on this issue. What are they telling you?

SCHIFF: My constituents are very weary of even entertaining the idea of another war. After the war in Iraq and now drawing down from Afghanistan, there's little appetite for getting involved in another war. But the case has not yet been fully made. And I think many people are skeptical. They think that Assad is a brutal despot. I think increasingly, people recognize that he did gas his own people.

But the country is wary of becoming entangled. And the country is concerned about, yet again being perceived as going it alone. And I think these are very legitimate concerns and they certainly resonate with me. All of that, you know, we all have to weigh against the cost of doing nothing, which is having to answer to history about why we sat still when someone gas his own people.

MARTIN: Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. Thanks so much for talking with us, congressman.

SCHIFF: You bet, nice to talk with you.


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