Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee tells Newsmax that President Barack Obama’s decision to hit the “pause button” on military action in Syria spared him the embarrassment of suffering a “No” vote in the Republican-controlled House — and possibly the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“For the president to come to Congress on an issue of national security and to get rebuffed would have been an embarrassment to the president and that would have sent a message around the world,” said Hoekstra in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
“They know that we’re divided but there wouldn’t have been anything more clear than the president asking to go into Syria and then not getting the vote,” acknowledged the Michigan Republican.
He said Russian President Vladimir Putin “threw the president a life line” this week when his government proposed putting Syria’s chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling in response to an off-the-cuff remark by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“I think every member of Congress is relieved that they don’t have to go cast this vote — at least not any time in the near future,” observed Hoekstra, who is on the advisory board of LIGNET, a global intelligence and forecasting service based in Washington, D.C.
“I think the majority of them would have cast that vote. They would have voted no,” he explained, including members of the House and Senate on the left. “They were not inclined to vote for this either. Having to cast a ‘No’ vote when there’s evidence of 1,400 people being killed — that is a vote that they didn’t want to cast but I think the majority of them were going to vote ‘No.’”
Hoekstra said that the president also failed in using his speech to position himself for a future vote in Congress by his many references to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while failing to mention American involvement in Libya and Egypt.
“The American people sure have a bad taste in their mouths for Iraq and Afghanistan,” he acknowledged. But “their most recent memory is Egypt and Libya. Those are under his watch. But every time he brings up Afghanistan and Iraq it’s like jabbing Republicans one more time.”
If Obama believed that he had truly been more successful with his foreign policy decisions than President George W. Bush, he would proudly pointed to them during his speech, according to Hoekstra.
“In reality, foreign policy is hard. Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t turn out the way that we wanted it to — and guess what? The president would be better off admitting that his response to the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009, his response to the Arab Spring in Egypt, and his response to what happened in Libya — they haven’t turned out very well either,” Hoekstra asserted.
“I think the mere absence of him mentioning Libya and Egypt is an admission on his part; he knows they didn’t turn out very well either. It’s not like saying ‘hey trust me: we did the right thing in Egypt and it turned out well.’”
Moreover, Hoekstra believes that Americans were not ready to go to war, even a limited one as the president insisted.
“You go around and you start sending missiles and airplanes and bombing people, it’s war,” he said. “We’re putting our men and women at risk. We’re going to kill a lot of the bad folks. We’re going to destroy a lot of their capability but we’re also going to kill innocent people. It’s war. The American people weren’t ready for it. I’m glad that we hit the pause button.”
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