Hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 in support of a U.S. strike against Syria, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., expressed his reservations about it.
Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was one of six senators who met with President Barack Obama's national security advisers. He's convinced the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack was real and that it was done by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. The Obama administration says the attack killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children.
"The real question, though, is what do we do about it, and how do we do it, and what will the consequences be," Coats said.
Coats, in a special edition of the nwi.com Political Roundtable, told Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross he's concerned about how responding to Syria's use of chemical weapons fits into the whole picture in the Middle East.
"I think what we need to clarify, and what we don't have yet from this administration, is a clear picture of what are our strategic interests, how do we best address those without becoming the policeman for the Middle East, trying to solve all these inter-state and inter-sect problems and all these civil wars going on," Coats said. "We simply don't have the capacity to do that."
"We're war-weary from the time in Iraq and Afghanistan," Coats said. "The last thing Americans want to do, and the last thing I want to do, is get us involved in another protracted Middle East conflict."
Assad's opposition has been infiltrated by al-Qaida, and numerous jihadist groups are trying to get involved, Coats said.
"So we have to be very careful that we don't just say, 'Let's give the other side all the weapons they need.' They'll throw Assad out, and turn to us and say, 'Well, thank you very much'? No. They'll turn to us and say we've got all the weapons, now we hate you just as much as the other guys. Which is why I think we need to find a strategy that I think we can all understand," Coats said.
"Are we getting drawn into something? Are we going to end up with another Iraq or Afghanistan? These are the decisions I think need to be debated before we get drawn into something here.
"I think there's still a lot of answers that have to come forward from the administration before I'm basically in a position of having to say yes or no."