This week, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to train, arm and fund the elusive “moderate” Muslim rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.
The plan calls for the U.S. to start supporting between 3,000 and 5,000 rebels in the Free Syrian Army. It is part of a $500 million aid package that will authorize U.S. support through December 11, 2014.
While the bill passed both houses with ease, it received more support from Republicans than Democrats. Yes, it is a truly sad day for the country when Democrats sound more reasonable than Republicans.
According to Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), the plan is “lame,” so she opposed it. Speier noted that former generals are also expressing their opposition because it does not address the real problem of stopping the funding for the terrorist group Islamic State. Speier said the terrorist organization is earning $3 million per day on oil income and the U.S. should “disrupt their line of income and that means blowing up oil wells and the roads they use to get….those oil tankers to shipment.”
Her Democratic colleague also voiced a very legitimate concern. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) claimed that “We simply don't know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us." In Iraq, millions of dollars of our military equipment that was given to the Iraqi army is now in the hands of the Islamic State, who is using it to kill innocent people.
Another issue that the administration refuses to address is that there is a real possibility that these so-called “moderate” Muslim fighters will not be reliable partners in fighting the Islamic State. In the view of former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, the rebels are not focused on fighting the Islamic State terrorist organization. He said that “their priority is not the Islamic State; it is the Bashar al-Assad regime. We need to know that going in.”
This viewpoint is also shared by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who said that he has “seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests. Further, the opposition fighters that we will train care more about overthrowing Assad than they do about defeating ISIS. Assad is evil, but he is not a threat to America."
There is no doubt that Assad has a track record of supporting terrorism and is a brutal dictator, much like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. However, we need to be very careful that we do not overthrow another dictator, only to see the country fall under the control of radical Muslim terrorists. A country can go from bad to worse, such as Iraq and Libya, which are today beset with terrorists, who control large portions of the country.
Fortunately, not all Republicans supported the President’s “lame” plan. In the Senate, conservative leaders such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) opposed the funding of Syrian rebels; however, the vast majority of their Republican and Democratic colleagues (78) voted for the legislation.
The reason for the President’s impressive margin of victory was that Congress did not want to be seen as opposing his plan to combat the Islamic State. In the wake of the barbaric beheading of American journalists and countless innocent civilians in Iraq and Syria, Congress wanted to show the American people they were doing something, even if it involved supporting a plan that will likely fail.
Instead of supporting a confused President, who initially called the Islamic State, the “JV” of terrorism, Congress should have rejected the plan that will ultimately create more havoc in the region.