Congressman John Yarmuth Unconvinced by Obama Administration’s Argument to Attack Syria

The Obama administration’s case to take military action against Syria after its government allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians has yet to convince Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman to support intervention.

Speaking on a WFPL News special, Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., says the country’s international reputation is not enough to launch a strike.

President Obama is seeking congressional authorization before launching strikes against Balshar al-Assad’s regime, which is engaged in a two-year long civil war with rebel forces.

The Obama administration is making its case to lawmakers beginning with a presentation before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Over 100 lawmakers attended a confidential briefing with national security experts on Sunday.

Yarmuth was among those lawmakers, and while he believes in the evidence presented by the administration showing the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians, the congressman isn’t convinced the U.S. should get involved.

“The general public probably considers national security interest any direct threat to the United States homeland, embassies, troops or property. The administration has a much vaguer I would say definition of national security interest, and they’re talking about the security of our allies and certain esoteric interests that I don’t think most Americans would agree is our national security interest,” says Yarmuth.

Yarmuth says he is also concerned because the U.S. is acting alone without many allies who are willing to join the fight against Syria.

Obama administration officials have argued that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates rules established by international law, adding if the U.S. doesn’t intervene it could embolden America’s enemies.

After meeting with the president at the White House, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House were convinced, and came out in support of the president’s call to attack.

Speaker John Boehner referred to it as a “barbarous act” that justified U.S. intervention. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi argued Assad has crossed a line that “humanity drew decades ago.”

Rank-and-file members on both sides of the aisle have voiced skepticism in the face of the humanitarian argument, however. Observers note the administration’s resolution faces an uphill battle in Congress and could backfire.

“We are the world’s only superpower. But I think that role imposes not just some obligations, but also some responsibilities to use our power very judiciously and not to appear to be arrogant,” says Yarmuth. “And I think when we act alone we run the risk of coming off as being the world’s bullies.”

Other Kentucky lawmakers have voiced outright opposition to military force.

From Congress Thomas Massie, R-Ky.:

From Congressman Andy Barr, R-Ky.:

The full WFPL News special with Congressman Yarmuth where he discussed Syria and other issues is below.

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