The last few months has featured political fodder locally in New Jersey between the special election races for the U.S. Senate in August and October and the November elections headlined by the governor's race. During the same stretch of time nationally there has been scandals and news stories linked to the IRS and NSA. Also, there has been a developing story internationally with continued unrest and uncertainty in Syria. As the situation has continued to escalate in the country and its surrounding areas, voices led by President Barack Obama have begun to stand up and make their cases for what actions need to done. Among those expressing opinions are multiple elected officials in the state of New Jersey.
As information began to come out especially in regard to the concern of Syria using chemical weapons, President Obama started to see the need for intervention. Thus, he would slowly begin to look for congressional approval before launching a military strike. Members of Congress from the Garden State definitely like that the president is turning to them however they are not exactly sold on a military strike on Syria.
As President Obama would present at the White House,
I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.
One of the most influential voices in Congress comes from New Jersey as Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He would outline,
The mass atrocity committed by the Assad regime in grave violation of international law is searing to the soul and blinding to the eye. To allow a despot to gas their population indiscriminately and with impunity is to fail our values and to compromise our freedoms. I will work with the Senate leadership in support of an authorization for use of military force as expeditiously as possible.
While Menendez seemed ready to support the president's push and rally Democrats in the U.S. Senate, there were others from New Jersey in Congress not as sold on the idea of intervention.
Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ1) is one of those members. Andrews would express,
I enter this process very skeptical that we should involve our troops in the middle of anyone’s civil war. I welcome all views and opinions as we go forward.
Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ6) would echo Andrews by voicing,
Congress must be fully informed by the administration as to what the goals of any operation will be and how those goals will be accomplished.
And Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ8) would add,
Removing the stockpiles of these chemical weapons will be one priority of mine, but quite frankly, I don’t think there are any kind of wins here.
While Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ9) would utter,
We know the Syrian government has an incredible stockpile of chemical weaponry. If the evidence bears out the Obama administration’s claims of civilian deaths from a massive chemical attack, the Assad regime might have to pay the price for its actions. What that price is, we don’t know.
Republicans in Congress from New Jersey were just as skeptical as Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ7) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ2) were both skeptical of a military strikes.
Lance would comment,
I abhor the use of chemical weapons. But I am yet to be convinced that we should take military action.
U.S. Senate candidate and Newark Mayor Cory Booker would also weigh in by exclaiming,
I will always approach the question of military intervention as a last resort. Obama has a high bar in convincing Congress to act. I firmly believe that there must be clear, achievable objectives and a credible path to achieving them.
U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan would make an exception to most of his campaign against Booker and agree with him by stating,
For America to intervene in Syrian affairs without a clear, strategic plan and a precisely defined military outcome and a launching of missiles against this regime could only cause more chaos, more death and more destruction for Syria and for its people.
With Menendez serving as a leading foreign policy voice in the U.S. Senate spoke to the urgency to properly assess the situation in Syria and make a decision that is best for America, the Middle East, and America's allies.
Time is of the essence. If a regime uses chemical weapons against its people, in contravention of the international laws, how does one at the end of the day send a clear and unequivocal message that the world will not permit that?
As he would continue,
We are at a crossroads moment. A precedent will be set either for the unfettered and unpunished use of chemical weapons... or a precedent will be set for the deterrence of the use of such weapons through the limited use of military force that sends a message that the world will not stand down. The eyes of the world are upon us. The decision we make, the resolution we present to the Senate, and the votes we take will reverberate around the world. Our friends and allies await our decisions, as does the despot in Pyongyang, the Ayatollahs of terror in Tehran, and terrorist groups wherever they may be. What we do in the face of the chemical attack by the Assad regime against innocent civilians will send a signal to the world that such weapons, in violation of international law, cannot be used with impunity.
As discussions continued to take place into this month, a new development occurred between Russia and Syria that would halt the necessity of any type of intervention by America. The news of an agreement between Russia and Syria that would limit Syria's chemical weapons usage and put them on the path that a military strike was intended to produce.
As Congressman Pascrell would express,
I am pleased that we have reached a framework agreement. This is a very ambitious undertaking that will require a great deal of continued cooperation from all parties.
Congressman Lance would add,
I am greatly suspicious of the Assad regime. I think the timeframe is relatively narrow. But I remain cautiously optimistic. I hope that it will work.
Menendez would also utter,
Obviously, a diplomatic solution as envisioned here would achieve a greater goal even than the military strikes that we envisioned. The military strikes we envisioned were against Assad's ability to deliver chemical weapons against innocent civilians. The elimination of all chemical weapons and all chemical production facilities — in essence, the factories of death — would be a far greater result. So we need to pursue this course to see how valid it is.
With a resolution in place, it will be a wait and see process. As this occurs, members of Congress led by individuals like Senator Menendez are likely to weigh in and provide opinions on what the president should do. It is certainly a touchy subject with a decade plus of war in the Middle East and fatigue being felt by Democrats and Republicans alike. Diplomacy seems to be the preferred path if any by most and a vote by Congress remains halted. Besides Menendez, it looks like those from New Jersey are far from sold on any major action.