WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke Monday on the Senate floor regarding the president’s move for Congress to pass his plan to use military force to strike Syria.
“Make no mistake, it is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass, and the credibility issue is of President Obama’s own making – his and his alone,” said Coats in his remarks on the Senate floor. “So tomorrow evening, the president will need to explain to the American people exactly what will be achieved by this limited, focused attack beyond simply a token punishment for a horrendous crime and defense of his credibility.
The full text of Coats’ remarks on the Senate floor is below:
“The president will make his case to the American people tomorrow, finally, to explain why he wants to take military action against Syria. This explanation is long overdue.
"I have a pretty good idea of what I expect he will say. First, he will explain that we have compelling evidence that the Assad regime used long-banned chemical weapons to murder its own people. This is not seriously contested. Neither I nor perhaps any of my colleagues here dispute these sad facts, well documented by our intelligence sources.
“Then the president will most likely explain that such a horrendous violation of norms deserves a worldwide response of condemnation. Who could look at those rooms full of dead children and not agree that the perpetrators must face consequences for their crimes?
“Third, the president surely will discuss the issue of credibility. He is likely to maintain – as he did recently in Stockholm – that it is not his own credibility, nor even American credibility, but the credibility of the international community that would be harmed by inaction.
“I agree with those who say that the president’s credibility and our nation’s credibility are linked. However, with his now notorious and ill-considered ‘red line’ comment, President Obama has forced us to debate a military attack in yet another Middle East country. Unfortunately, it appears the purpose of the military attack is, first and foremost, to defend his own credibility. I am certain that if the president had not drawn his ‘red line,’ we would not be having this discussion. In that case, Assad’s use of such weapons would be roundly condemned as yet another example of his horrendous brutality, but we would be no more eager to engage militarily in his civil war than we have been as the other 100,000 Syrian people were being slaughtered by more conventional means. Make no mistake, it is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass, and the credibility issue is of President Obama’s own making – his and his alone.
“So tomorrow evening, the president will need to explain to the American people exactly what will be achieved by this limited, focused attack beyond simply a token punishment for a horrendous crime and defense of his credibility.
“The president has said that the proposed limited attack is to be a ‘shot across the bow.’ His secretary of State, John Kerry said it would be an ‘unbelievably small’ attack. We need to know what the plan is should Assad remain undeterred by this ‘unbelievably small’ ‘shot across the bow.’ What then?
“We need to know how this escalation is likely to influence extremist radical fighters now active in Syria, not overly concerned with limited demonstrations of US power. What will Hezbollah and Hamas and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters do when our show of force is over? What is the president’s plan of action if the chemical weapons fall into the hands of these anti-American Jihadists?
“How about the always-threatened spillover of the Syria conflict into Lebanon or Turkey or Jordan? Will an attack intended to slap Assad's wrists while defending Obama's credibility make expansion of the conflict more or less likely?
“And most importantly, the president must explain more thoroughly exactly how America’s national security interests would be served.
“The president must address these additional concerns, which are widely – almost universally – shared by the American people. We all know that taking America to war without support from the people is the surest path to disaster. This, I would suggest, must be avoided.
“Over the last week, I visited with Hoosiers from across Indiana to gather their input. Through these visits as well as many calls and emails, the vast majority of Hoosiers I have heard from are opposed to U.S. military engagement in Syria.
“Like all conscientious lawmakers, I know I must balance the expressed views of my constituents with my own judgment on how best to represent their interests and the interests of our country. In this case I must first ask myself – what do the people back in our home states know that many of the rest of us here in Washington perhaps do not?
“First, they know that America has been at war in far-off lands for 12 years. They have seen long, repeated deployments of their loved ones and they have seen the body bags come home. They are aware of the sacrifices that have been made in the name of protecting our interests, but they are less aware of positive results of those sacrifices.
“They see Iraq descending again into conflict as its own citizens continue to slaughter one another because of different interpretations of the Koran. They see a corrupt government there that authorizes over-flights of Russian aircraft bringing modern weapons to Syria to fuel a similar conflict.
“Hoosiers see an Afghanistan so deeply corrupt and ungrateful that the regime tries to extort huge ransom payments simply to permit us to remove equipment and personnel from that sorry country. They do not see meaningful progress toward a democratic, stable and humane government that was to be the objective of American sacrifice. And they do not see how our 12 years of effort have contributed to our own security.