Skip to main content

Congressman: Syria strike not worth risk

By Joe Heck, Special to CNN
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Fri September 6, 2013
A Syrian refugee is seen in the early morning hours after sleeping outside the Center for Temporary Stay of Immigrants on Wednesday, April 2, in Melilla, Spain. The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country is more than 2 million, according to the United Nations. A Syrian refugee is seen in the early morning hours after sleeping outside the Center for Temporary Stay of Immigrants on Wednesday, April 2, in Melilla, Spain. The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country is more than 2 million, according to the United Nations.
HIDE CAPTION
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Photos: Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Photos: Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
Syria's refugee crisis
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Joe Heck: World, so far, lacks resolve to respond to al-Assad regime atrocities
  • He says he's not convinced U.S. should strike. Action should only protect U.S. interests
  • He says a strike could spark wider regional conflict, escalate U.S. involvement
  • Heck: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya show our intervention can leave behind further abuses

Editor's note: Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican, represents Nevada's 3rd Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is also a physician.

(CNN) -- The most difficult decision a member of Congress will ever have to make is to commit our nation's armed forces to military action against an enemy. Having served with and cared for those brave men and women as a physician in the Army Reserve with three deployments including Iraq, this is not a decision I would arrive at lightly or without careful consideration of all the available facts.

There is no question that the horrific atrocities perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria are nothing short of appalling and deserve international condemnation. But there is a glaring lack of international resolve on what the response to such abominable acts should be.

A careful examination of the current situation and an understanding of our history in the region advise that the United States must proceed with caution before entering another Middle Eastern conflict.

Joe Heck
Joe Heck

First, I have concerns that a strike in Syria will only further muddle the administration's disjointed foreign policy approach to the region. It is no secret that the president has already used a patchwork strategy in dealing with the turmoil in the Middle East. The United States has implemented three entirely different approaches in Egypt, Libya and Syria.

The debate over a military strike in Syria cannot be a knee jerk reaction to the president's failed "new beginning" with the Arab world—including failures of diplomacy in Libya and Egypt. Rather, a strike on Syria must consider the greater strategic implications of military action and should be about one thing: the best strategic interests of the United States.

Second, the unintended consequences of even a "limited" military strike may outweigh any potential positive results. Some suggest that not acting could destabilize the region and further embolden bad actors such as North Korea or Iran; this ignores the fact that any military strike on Syria could spark a much wider regional conflict that would escalate our own involvement.

Rangel opposes military strikes on Syria
McCain: This is a regional conflict
Syrian archbishop: War won't help anyone

There could be an additional attack against Syrian civilians, there could be retaliation against Israel, and Syrian refugees flooding into neighboring countries could tip the balance of the fragile political stability there. Right now, no matter how abhorrent the atrocities committed, the conflict is confined within the borders of Syria. Nobody knows for certain what will result from action or inaction.

Next, the administration has yet to clearly articulate the goals, objectives and potential costs of a military action in Syria. We know that the president wants to punish al-Assad, but I have never believed our military force should be used to deliver a shot across the bow unless we are willing to then sink the ship if the warning shot is unheeded.

I don't believe that our military, or the American people, are ready to sink the ship. All that has been made clear is what we are not going to achieve -- regime change -- and what we could possibly achieve: a shifting of the momentum in the ground war against al-Assad's military.

We must be careful and quite clear with the types of actions we take as we use our military force in this fiscally strained environment, and at a time when we are drawing down the end-strength of our forces. Thus far, the specifics of a strike in Syria have not met this standard.

Finally, I do not believe the case has been made that there is a clear and imminent threat to our national security interests. Some say that projecting strength and showing a willingness to act against leaders who commit abuses are important enough reasons to strike Syria. A similar argument was used against Saddam Hussein, leading to the Gulf and Iraq Wars; a similar argument was used against the Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan; a similar argument was used yet again against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya.

While the circumstances that led to these interventions were all very different, the continued unrest that grips the countries involved shows that our ability to influence outcomes is finite and any power vacuum we may leave behind is likely to result in further violence and abuses. I believe it would be unwise to take on a situation that very likely could produce this same result.

Throughout history, no matter what action the United States has taken, we have seen that evil people will do evil things. As the situation evolves, we may see evidence that the Syrian armed forces are planning to attack our longstanding allies in the region or that there could be a major threat to global commerce. Such a situation would likely warrant a U.S. military strike. But that is not the situation we find ourselves in today.

In the end, if we are going to engage our military, there must be a clear threat to our national security interests at home and a clear strategy of what we are going to achieve. Anything less would disregard the lessons of recent history and further complicate the situation in Syria and the region while risking precious American blood and treasure.

Follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNN Opinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joe Heck.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT