Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, in a Boise news conference today, said he believes the nation is better off doing nothing than launching a military strike against Syria in the wake of that country’s chemical weapons attack against its own citizens. “Nothing I say today should be taken as minimizing this attack that was done by the Assad regime on his own country,” Risch said. But, he said, “There are no good answers here. … My judgment is the risk of doing something is worse than the risk of doing nothing.”
Risch, who was in the minority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting against a resolution yesterday authorizing limited use of force by President Obama, said he wanted Idahoans to know his thinking on the issue; the resolution cleared the panel on 10-7 vote. He’s posted the full video of the news conference on YouTube; you can watch it here.
“There’s tons of nerve gas and other weapons of mass destruction in Syria,” Risch said. “We know where some of those are. Unfortunately, we don’t know where all of those are.” He said, “If this attack unseats the Assad regime, it puts radicals in control of those weapons of mass destruction. Now this is the problem I’ve got with that: I have asked over and over again in Washington, D.C., what are you going to do if that happens? What is the plan to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of some very, very, very bad people? I’m not getting answers to that that are adequate, other than it’ll be right. And I’m not satisfied with that.”
Risch said, “The bottom line here is I cannot support a military attack on Syria at this time. I don’t deny that what he’s done on Aug. 21 is very, very bad. What he did before Aug. 21 was even worse, where he’s killed tens of thousands of people through conventional means.” Risch said if the Assad regime had used weapons of mass destruction against Americans or American interests, “This would have been an absolute no-brainer for me and I would have come down differently on this.” But he said the Syrian conflict is a civil war, and at this point, he doesn’t believe Assad has attacked American interests or allies.
Risch predicted the resolution would pass the Senate over his opposition, but said he can't predict what will happen in the House.