Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday. During his testimony, he made three key statements regarding Syria. Those statements should concern Americans and further reduce support for an attack.
Kerry was joined in his testimony by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey. The testimony was supposed to answer questions regarding Syria and build support for a United States response. Instead, some of Kerry’s responses led to more concern and questions.
During his testimony, Kerry stated that American servicemen and women would not be involved in a “boots on the ground” effort in Syria. A day earlier, however, Kerry testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and waffled on answers on the same subject. Kerry stated, "I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country." Another of Kerry's responses stated that drafting language would be “easy” to ensure that it was “appropriate” for Congress. The differing answers to the Senate and the House do not inspire confidence that Kerry has a solid and concise plan for a limited response in Syria.
Kerry also stated that the United States would not have to bear the burden of the Syrian attack alone. The support would not come from “boots on the ground” but would be financial instead. With respect to Syrian President Assad’s Arab enemies, Kerry stated, "Some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we've done it previously in other places, they'll carry that cost." Kerry’s statement, unfortunately, does not specify if “doing the whole thing” refers to previous actions in Iraq or Libya. Both were different in their goals and responses.
The final concerning statement from Kerry involved President Obama’s drawing of a so-called "red line" on chemical weapons. During an exchange with Representative Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), at four hours and 12 minutes into his testimony, Kerry stated that he wasn’t sure “when” Obama publicly drew a red line against Syria's use of chemical weapons. When Kerry made his statement, he may not have known that Obama was in Stockholm, Sweden stating that he didn’t set a red line at all. Instead, according to Obama, the red line was set by the world. While Obama may have tried to flatly deny the quote he himself made about Syria, Kerry’s statement indicated that it was indeed President Obama who cited the need for action against Assad.
The Kerry testimony may have swayed some congressional members to authorize an attack against Syria. Unfortunately, Kerry created more confusion for the average American. He did not answer definitively whether American military personnel will be needed in Syria. He stated that the financial cost of an attack may be borne by other nations but the cost of “boots on the ground” may fall on Americans. Kerry also stated that he did not know when Obama set the red line and unwittingly contradicted the president's attempts to make a Syrian attack an international requirement.
The average American will see through this gamesmanship and manipulation of the facts. He or she should be insulted that no definitive plan of action has been proposed and no specific goal identified. The art of the political deal for Obama, Kerry, and Congress should have been better played.