Skip to main content

Congressman: Syria strike not worth risk

By Joe Heck, Special to CNN
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A Syrian refugee wraps herself in a blanket as she stands near tents in the Suruc district near Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Thursday, October 2. As many as 200,000 people have left the area surrounding the Syrian city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, because of the militant group ISIS, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in September. A Syrian refugee wraps herself in a blanket as she stands near tents in the Suruc district near Sanliurfa, Turkey, on Thursday, October 2. As many as 200,000 people have left the area surrounding the Syrian city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, because of the militant group ISIS, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in September.
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
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
87
88
89
90
91
>
>>
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
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT