Senate candidates skeptical of U.S. military action in Syria

Republicans hoping to succeed Sen. Harkin appear no more supportive than the five-term Democrat

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March 28, 2014 | 7:57 pm

CEDAR RAPIDS – Republicans hoping to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin appear to be no more supportive of military intervention in Syria than the five-term Democrat.

Like Harkin and the presumptive Democratic nominee for the retiring senator’s seat, 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley, they have more questions than answers. Based on the information available, the Republicans said, the president has not made the case for military action.

“As it stands right now, there should be no military action in Syria by American forces,” said Sam Clovis, who spent 25 years in the Air Force

“He hasn’t made the case to me – or a lot of Iowans -- for intervention,” added David Young, a former chief of staff for Sen. Chuck Grassley.

Obama has failed to explain “why it is in our vital interests to use force in the midst of Syria’s ongoing civil war,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran with 20 years of experience in the Army Reserve and National Guard.

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker also questions whether Syria is in the nation’s vital interest and has reservations about setting a precedent that the U.S. will intervene every time chemical weapons are used.

Another GOP U.S. Senate hopeful, Paul Lunde, opposing authorizing the president “to fling costly cruise missiles into Syria” that would “cost hundreds of millions of dollars and probably would kill many people that we are attempting to help.”

However, the candidates have not ruled out supporting military action “if Obama can make a convincing argument,” Whitaker said.

Without “all of the intelligence that the president has access to, I would not authorize President Obama to use military force against Syria,” Clovis said.

As a senator, Young added, he would have access to classified briefings. Still, he would need to “hear the specifics of the plan and know its scope” as well as an exit strategy before voting for a military strike.

So far, Ernst said, the president has not explained to the public “what the actual mission is meant to accomplish?”

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