Support for President Obama's proposed intervention in Syria appeared scant among Missouri's congressional delegation Monday.
KRCG 13 asked all of Missouri's congressional representation in Washington where they stood on an intervention on the eve of a major national address by the president. Only two members of the delegation returned our calls. The rest released statements reflecting their most recent positions on intervention.
Opposition was virtually uniform among Missouri's Republicans. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., released a statement reading, in part, "During the first months of the insurgency, I believed that we could and should assist in establishing a safe zone for refugees and those challenging Assad...After careful consideration and a number of briefings on this topic, I believe this strategy and the unknown response it may provoke are the wrong thing to do, and I will not support the resolution the President has asked for."
In the house, Rep. Sam Graves' office said Graves had some concerns about intervening but had given no indication one way or the other as to how he would vote.
Fellow Republican Rep. Jason Smith, who succeeded Jo Ann Emerson in a special election this spring, released a statement on Sept. 3 that read, in part, "I have serious concerns about any military involvement in Syria because the situation has no clear national securities connections to the United States and victory of any proposed military action has not been defined. We should not put our men and women in uniform in harm's way without clear objectives and a sensible strategy."
Rep. Ann Wagner has released a statement in recent days reading "I do not believe the President or his Administration have made the case to Congress or more importantly the American people for military action in Syria at this time - There are no clear or achievable national security objectives. Rest assured, I will keep you informed on new developments as this situation continues to unfold, but at this time - I simply cannot support such a strike."
Rep. Vicky Hartzler told KRCG 13 she was not fully committed to a "no" vote but said she did not see anything during classified hearings Monday afternoon that indicated an intervention served U.S. national security interests. She said there were too many unanswered questions about the nature of the conflict.
"Many of the rebel forces have ties to al-Qaeda, and could we be inviting retaliation that could draw us into a more sustained conflict there?" she said.
Rep. Billy Long said in a statement, "The president has yet to adequately explain to the American people how our national interests are threatened in this situation and how the action proposed would protect those interests. As a result, I remain very skeptical of involving our country in another country's civil war."
After a hearing this evening, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer told KRCG 13 the U.S. should continue working with Syria's neighbors to ensure refugees get the help they need, but he did not see any need for military involvement.
"At this time, I don't believe that's the course of action for the United States to take for what I believe is the lack of an imminent threat to our national security," he said.
Reactions among Missouri's Democrats were little more favorable. Rep. Lacy Clay's office posted the following message on his Facebook page: "Since (voters) first sent me to Washington in 2000, I have consistently opposed the use of military force unless our essential national security interests were at risk. And I am reluctant in this case as well. I have not made a final decision because I wish to further examine the evidence (including classified findings) and I also want the full congressional debate to go forward."
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's office told KRCG 13 Cleaver has said he wants to listen to all of the evidence, but if a vote on military intervention was held today, "his vote would most likely be no."
Sen. Claire McCaskill was the only member of either party to hint at any support for an intervention, and her sentiments were not unequivocal. She released a statement reading, "It's the right course of action for the President to seek Congressional approval for a strike against Syria. A dictator's illegal and brutal murder of innocent civilians with chemical weapons has clear implications for our national security, and for the safety of our allies, but we must avoid becoming entangled in another long, costly military campaign."
The members' reactions come as President Obama struggles to build support for a military strike against Syria. Obama first floated the idea in late August after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly attacked a rebel stronghold using sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent. A Gallup poll released on Sept. 6 shows just 36 percent of Americans favor intervention in Syria, while 51 percent oppose action. This was markedly lower than public support immediately prior to military actions in the Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. British Prime Minister David Cameron has already lost a vote in Parilament similar to the one Obama is now seeking, effectively removing one of the United States' closest allies from the picture in the event a military intervention goes forward. On Aug. 30, the Associated Press reported NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rassmussen said NATO had no plans to intervene. This makes a unified NATO operation such as happened in Kosovo and Afghanistan virtually impossible.
President Obama is expected to address the nation from the White House at primetime Tuesday night. The senate was expected to vote on intervention sometime later this week, but that vote was put on hold Monday afternoon after Syria welcomed a proposal to avert a strike by turning over its chemical arsenal, according to the Associated Press.