Amid Global Tensions, A Timely Trip
The last few weeks have seen a great deal of activity around the globe, on both the military and diplomatic fronts.
As you know, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrifying chemical weapons attack on Idilib Province that killed at least 86 of his own people, including many women and children. In response, President Donald Trump ordered a military strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles targeting the air base from which Assad’s attack originated. I support the President’s decision to order a military strike, and I applaud him for taking decisive action. There are many questions going forward about how the United States and the world will deal with Syria. However, one thing is clear: this kind of brutality will no longer be tolerated.
You may remember that I did not support President Obama’s so-called plan for military involvement in Syria back in 2013. However, had President Obama taken similar action to strike military targets in response to a chemical weapons attack, I would have absolutely supported that decision. Unfortunately, that’s not what he did. Instead, after Assad crossed the supposed “red line,” President Obama hesitated over what to do. He came to Congress with a proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was vague, incomplete, and self-defeating. I believe that plan would not have led to success in Syria, which is why I didn’t support it. The Obama Administration then brokered a deal through the Russians whereby Assad would give up his chemical weapons, which obviously did not work.
All that said, while President Trump was well within his authority to order this strike, it will soon be time for him to come to Congress to discuss our future in Syria, particularly as it concerns escalation. I have the same expectation for him that I had for President Obama in 2013: We need a plan that is decisive, that doesn’t tie the hands of our military, and that has an end game.
The situation in Syria has brought to the forefront some long-existing geo-political tensions with Russia. For some time I have believed that the United States must take a stronger stance toward Russia in response to their increased aggression. That’s why I have been pleased to see both President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demonstrate toughness toward their Russian counterparts in recent days.
Amid these tensions with Russia, it is as important as ever to reinforce our strategic partnerships with NATO-allied nations. This week I will be joining Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) on a bi-partisan Congressional Delegation to NATO-allied nations in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea. We will travel to the United Kingdom, Norway, Poland, and Estonia for meetings with government and military officials in these key European nations.
It’s no secret that the former Soviet state of Estonia has seen increased aggression from neighboring Russia in recent years, including debilitating cyber attacks. Strengthening our country’s strategic military alliances is a priority for me on Defense Appropriations, and I’m looking forward to a productive trip. Our Congressional Delegation to these key NATO-allied nations couldn’t be more timely, and I appreciate Speaker Ryan for inviting me to be a part of it.
Whether it concerns threats from rogue states like North Korea and Iran, or ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, or geopolitical tensions with Russia, I believe the United States is best served by a policy of peace through strength. I have been encouraged by the Trump Administration’s response to these early challenges, and I look forward to reinforcing our country’s position of global leadership from my role in Congress.