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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Headshot

Military Strike in Syria a Mistake

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War is hell. But, as a soldier and combat veteran, I know it is sometimes necessary.

I've experienced firsthand the high cost of war. Serving in Iraq in 2005, part of my job was to go through a daily list of our Hawai`i troops who had been injured or killed the previous day. I worked to make sure these brave men and women and their families had what they needed. I saw the horrors of injury and death. I came home from my yearlong deployment resolved that I would do whatever I could to prevent my brothers and sisters in uniform from going to war, unless absolutely necessary to defend our nation.

The proposal and arguments for a limited strike promise us a short conflict with no American boots on ground. But history has taught us again and again that conflicts in the Middle East are never simple, neat, or clean. Intervention of this sort requires a high bar for me to support -- that it is in our nation's security, diplomatic and moral interest.

The proposed intervention in Syria does not meet this test. I spent the last week with an open mind, examined the evidence, heard the Administration's arguments, and participated in Foreign Affairs committee meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden, General Martin Dempsey, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, I listened to classified briefings and studied the evidence that was presented.

I have concluded that intervention in Syria goes against America's national security, international credibility, economic interest, and moral center.

Intervening in Syria will not make us safer. Syria is not a national security threat to our country. Worse, we'll be entangling our country in a sectarian civil war that could ultimately help opposition sects with ties to radical terrorists, such as Al-Qaeda. Finally, we have no clear tactical objective, no exit strategy, and no commitment to win (in fact we are entering this war with declared intentions not to win). The focus of our foreign policy should be on actual threats, like North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and repeated threats to attack the United States, including Hawaiʻi.

Intervening will damage American credibility. The administration claims that if lawmakers oppose President Obama's military strike in Syria, it will undermine America's credibility. Intervening without a clear objective is a greater threat to American credibility. This intervention does not have support from the American people or the world community. It is not in our national security interest and we have no clear, achievable, objective. An "unbelievably small" military strike, as stated by Secretary Kerry, will not destroy the Assad regime, it will not end the civil war, and it will not disarm Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons.

Intervening will hurt America's economic power. After a decade and two wars in the Middle East and without a threat to our national security, our focus must be on rebuilding America -- not policing a sectarian civil war in Syria. Attacking Syria will further squander our already depleted military and financial assets.

Bombing Syria will not right Assad's morally reprehensible action. Like all Americans, I am sickened and outraged by the carnage and loss of lives caused by the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The gruesome images of men, women, and children killed by the August 21st chemical weapons attack, is one that shakes us to our core. But our moral outrage should motivate us not just to take action, but to take effective action toward a clear objective (such as an agreement to inspect and disarm Syria's chemical weapons supply). We should certainly not take any action which could worsen the situation.

Bombing Syria will make it more likely that these chemical weapons will get into the hands of Al-Qaeda and other extremist Islamic groups, and therefore cause even more suffering, not less.

The most responsible and moral action that we can take to prevent the likelihood of any future chemical or biological weapons attacks in Syria will require true leadership to bring about sustained diplomatic and economic pressure -- working in concert with our allies, as well as Russia, Iran, and China -- to secure international control of the chemical weapons stockpile in Syria. Furthermore, we can use this opportunity to bring international attention to the need to actually rid the entire world of these chemical and biological weapons.