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Transcript: Sen. Rand Paul responds to President Obama's Syria address

 

Below is a transcript of remarks delivered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in response to President Obama's address to the nation on Syria.

Twelve years after we were attacked by Al Qaeda, 12 years after 3,000 Americans were killed by Al Qaeda, President Obama now asks us to be allies with Al Qaeda.

Americans by a large majority want nothing to do with the Syrian civil war. We fail to see a national security interest in a war between a leader who gasses his own citizens and Islamic rebels who are killing Christians.

Some argue that American credibility is on the line, that because President Obama drew a red line with chemical weapons, America must act or lose credibility. I would argue that America's credibility does not reside in one man.

If our enemies wish to know if America will defend herself, let them look no farther than our response to 9/11. When attacked, we responded with overwhelming force and with the military objective of complete victory over our attackers.

The Reagan Doctrine grew out of his experience in the Middle East. Reagan's defense secretary spelled out a systematic approach to our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts. First, the American people must be supportive - overwhelmingly supportive - but most importantly our mission must be to win.

There is no clearly defined mission in Syria, no clearly defined American interest. In fact, the Obama Administration has specifically stated that "no military solution" exists. They have said the war will be "unbelievably small and limited."

To me that sounds like they are pre-announcing that the military strikes will not punish Assad personally or effect regime change.

It is said that America must act to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again. But it is unknown whether attacking Assad encourages him or discourages him. It is equally likely that Assad could feel cornered and resort to chemical weapons in an expanded fashion.

It is equally likely that the bombing could de-stabilize Assad and he could lose control of the chemical weapons. The Obama Administration has indicated that it would take 75,000 ground troops to secure the weapons and that they are prepared to do just that despite the resolution's admonition against ground troops.

The question must be asked, "Would a U.S. bombing campaign make it more or less likely that Assad loses control of the chemical weapons?"

The same question can be asked of a series of bad outcomes. "Would a US bombing campaign make it more or less likely that Assad attacks Israel with chemical weapons?"

Would a bombing campaign make it more or less likely that refugees stream into Jordan? Just the threat of bombing has increased the flow of refugees.

Would a bombing campaign in Syria make the region more or less stable? Would it make it more or less likely that Iran or Russia becomes more involved?

Just about any bad outcome you can imagine is made more likely by U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

In the past 24 hours, Russia has offered to broker a deal with Syria to have their chemical weapons put under international control. Diplomacy, if sincere, would be a welcome resolution. The Syrian foreign minister has indicated an interest in the proposal.

Can we trust the participants in this plan?

Diplomacy is always a mixture of trust, distrust, and watchfulness. We should not be naïve, and we should have a solid plan and safeguards in place as part of any solution.

As Reagan put it we must "trust, but verify."

Some will say that only the threat of force brought Russia and Syria to the negotiating table. In fact, Russian has been negotiating with the US for over a year to find a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war.

The possibility of a diplomatic solution is a good thing, though we must proceed with caution on the details.

But one thing is for certain, the chance for diplomacy would not have occurred without strong voices against an immediate bombing campaign. If we had simply gone to war last week or the week before, as many advocated, we wouldn't be looking at a possible solution today.

The voices of those in Congress and the overwhelming number of Americans who stood up and said "slow down" allowed this possible solution to take shape.

Will diplomacy win the day? No one can tell for certain. But on a broader issue, it is an important day, though, in the sense that a President recognized his Constitutional duty and came to seek Congressional authority for war.

If the vote occurs, I will vote no and encourage my colleagues to vote no as well. The President has not made a compelling case that American interests are at risk in Syria. The threshold for war should be a significant one.

The President maintains that he still has the power to initiate war. This is untrue. The Constitution gave the power to declare war to Congress. James Madison wrote that the "Constitution supposes, what history demonstrates, that the executive is the branch most prone to war. Therefore the Constitution, with studied care, vested the power to declare war in the legislature."

This is no small question. I see the vote on whether to go to war in very personal terms. I will not vote to send my son, your son, or anyone's daughter to war unless a compelling American interest is present. I am not convinced that we have a compelling interest in the Syrian civil war.

May God help us make the wise decision here and avoid an unnecessary war.