News / USA

Former US Presidential Candidate Supports Limited Strike in Syria

Huntsman Supports Limited Strike Against Syriai
X
September 05, 2013 10:22 AM
As the U.S. Congress and the American public debate military action against Syria, President Obama says the Syrian government has violated international norms by using chemical weapons against its own people. Many in Washington agree, among them Jon Huntsman, who campaigned to be the commander-in-chief in the last U.S. presidential election. Natalie Liu has more from Washington.
Natalie Liu
As the U.S. Congress and the American public debate what ought to be done with Syria, President Obama said a red line has been crossed by the Syrian government. He says it's not his red line, but a red line that violates international norms.  Many in Washington agree, among them Jon Huntsman, one of the Republican contenders for the White House in the last presidential election.  

Jon Huntsman was governor of the western state Utah when he was appointed by President Obama to be the top diplomat in Beijing.
 
“There isn’t an easy set of policy choices here, there is no good answer, but you have to recognize the circumstances for what they are, and that is, a threshold has been crossed and there has to be some response to that,” Huntsman told VOA in an interview conducted at his home in Washington.

While acknowledging the toll that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have exerted on the American public, Huntsman says to do nothing would send the most unfortunate message.

“Recognizing where we have been in the last 13 years in terms of boots on the ground, regime change, pre-emptive measures, a lot of the approaches that were taken in the past while that proved to be very costly and hurtful to U.S. prestige and standing abroad, I think we have to learn from those lessons while at the same time, we do have to recognize that chemical weapons have been used here,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in noting the administration’s decision to take action in Syria, said administration officials, himself included, are aware of the war weariness many Americans feel: “we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war.  Believe me, I am, too.  But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.”

The shadow of Iraq has not only affected American public opinion, but is also seen as having led to the British Parliament’s decision to not join in the coalition this time around.  But some analysts say “not all is Afghanistan or Iraq,” and the circumstances that are prompting the White House’s decision to intervene in Syria are very different from the attack on Iraq back in 2003 over allegations - which later turned out to not have been substantiated - that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Jeffrey Pryce, a former Pentagon official who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, described the difference as “night and day.”

In the case of Syria, Pryce pointed out, intelligence gathering precedes military action, instead of the other way around, and there is plenty of proof that Syria’s government was behind the August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

“You have that coming from several different sources, including European intelligence; you have the Arab League stating pretty unequivocally that this is something for which they hold the Assad regime accountable,” Pryce said in an interview.

President Obama’s decision to seek approval from Congress for an attack on Syria has surprised many.  Critics say it is a decision made out of political - rather than national security - considerations.

Huntsman, for one, disagrees with the approach.

“So if I were sitting at the White House, I think I would have consulted the National Security advisers, briefed all of the relevant committee chairs and minority members, and done what I thought is right for the United States - I don’t think a vote is needed in this case," he said.

Huntsman said he’s familiar with the battle between the Legislature and Executive branches, because of his experience serving as governor of Utah.

“My fear is that you set a precedent and Congress begins to take a little more authority away from that which is duly reserved for the Executive branch, and the next time you have a similar set of circumstances, Congress will expect to take a vote again, and that takes time away from the Executive branch, it changes their strategy in terms of how you now have to fashion the issue for Congress - maybe not for other constituencies," said Huntsman.

Huntsman believes it remains a prerogative of the presidency to act based on consultations alone with Congress, “and then to get about the business of the country.”

President Obama Wednesday defended his decision to seek congressional approval for a limited strike against the Assad regime in Syria.
 
“The fact that I’ve had a chance to speak to many of you, and Congress as a whole is taking this issue with the soberness and seriousness that it deserves, is greatly appreciated and I think vindicates the decision for us to present this issue to Congress," the president said.

Until now,  Obama has been criticized by some for his reluctance to get involved in the Syrian civil war.  Pryce said that makes his call to arms more credible.  “I think that he’s seen as a reluctant warrior, and that’s probably a strength at this point.”

While speaking to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the gravity of individual members' decisions.
 
“The world is watching not just to see what we decide, but it is watching to see how we make this decision - whether in a dangerous world we can still make our government speak with one voice,” Kerry warned.

Huntsman agreed that choices made in Washington reverberate regionally and globally.
 
“This, unlike some of the other conflicts that we’ve waged in years gone by, is connected to different players in the region who have an interest in the outcome, and the outcome could very well determine what they choose to do in terms of how they move the pieces on the chess board,” he said.
 
The White House has described its intended military action against the Assad regime in Syria as “limited” and “proportional,” and does not involve American troops on the ground.  Whether the White House can persuade Congress - and the American public - to go along - remains to be seen.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid