President Barack Obama promised at least 16 times between August 2013 and July of this year that he would not send combat troops to Syria, which is the midst of a long and bloody multi-faction civil war, according to an Oct. 31 USA Today story. And though he enjoys using the “boots on the ground” euphemism, he was pretty clear in his intentions. “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria,” Obama said on Sept. 10, 2013, according to USA Today. “I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.
But now that’s all in the past. “The United States will deploy dozens of special operations troops to northern Syria from next month to advise opposition forces in their fight against Islamic State, a major policy shift for President Barack Obama and a step he has long resisted to avoid getting dragged into another war in the Middle East,” Reuters reported on Oct. 31. “[White House spokesperson Josh] Earnest said the new mission in Syria was open ended and did not rule out the possibility of sending additional special forces troops into Iraq.”
Hawaii’s two U.S. Senators–both of whom are Democrats–aren’t too happy about it. Of the two, Senator Brian Schatz was clearly the more perturbed.
“The Administration’s announcement that it will deploy Special Operations Forces into Syria to combat ISIL [one of the nastier factions fighting Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime] marks a major shift in U.S. policy—a shift that is occurring without congressional debate, is unlikely to succeed in achieving our objective of defeating ISIL and instead threatens to embroil the United States in Syria’s civil war and could bring us into direct confrontation with the Russian Federation military and Syrian government forces,” he said in an Oct. 30 statement. “This shift in policy is a strategic mistake. Regardless of my views, the War Powers Resolution requires Congress to debate and authorize the escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria.”
Senator Mazie Hirono largely agreed, though her language was a bit more tempered.
“In our effort to degrade and destroy ISIL, the President has reiterated that it is not in our national interest to send U.S. combat troops into yet another ground war in the Middle East,” Hirono said in an Oct. 30 press statement. “I agree, and as a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, I will hold the Administration to that commitment.”
Photo of blown-out tank in Aleppo, Syria in 2012: Voice of America News/Wikimedia Commons