As many Republicans in Congress prepare to oppose action against Syria when they convene Sept. 9, one GOP House member insists President Barack Obama would have sent "a strong message" to President Bashar Al-Assad by ordering an air strike a week ago and that Obama needs no congressional approval for action against the Assad regime.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax Saturday — shortly after the president's announcement that he would make a decision on Syria following a debate in Congress — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who flew missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, voiced his strong view that the president is taking too long by waiting for Congress to return.
"That means he's giving Assad 10 days to prepare for something," said Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Were it up to me, I would have ordered a strike at least a week ago and sent a strong message to Syria. But now we're giving Assad more time."
The stand by two-termer Kinzinger shows that there are extremely sharp divisions on Syria among congressional Republicans.
Where Kinzinger and fellow veteran Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California take a decidedly hawkish approach, Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have come out sharply against U.S. action.
Paul on Sunday reminded Secretary of State John Kerry of statements he made in 1971 as an anti-Vietnam War leader, while Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, insisted on Friday that cuts in the defense budget were working against a major Syrian operation by the U.S.
Kinzinger disagrees with members on both sides of the political divide who insisted that Obama consult Congress before any attack.
"Even under the War Powers Act, the president would not need to go to Congress to order an immediate strike," Kinzinger told Newmax. "And certainly, there are precedents in the immediate U.S. airstrikes in Operation Desert Fox (the 1998 bombing of Iraq) and Afghanistan."
Accepting that there was a strong public insistence on involvement from Congress in the Syrian question following the debate and vote on the issue in the British parliament last Thursday, Kinzinger said: "Then if the role of Congress was so important, why didn't the president call us immediately into session and let us begin debating on Sunday?"
The outcome in Syria is uncertain and does not look promising, the Illinois lawmaker said.
"It seems there is no good outcome," he said. Had the U.S. taken action sooner it might have been possible to "vet the rebels and support only the true secularists," he said. "But this situation is so far gone now, who knows what will happen?"
What would be good, he added, "a one-day strike with Tomahawk and cruise missiles would destroy Assad's chemical weapons and show the world that their use will not be tolerated."
In criticizing the president for his remarks Saturday, Kinzinger nonetheless urged a bipartisan approach to Obama's action once it is taken.
"I don't want anyone to oppose a military strike just because it is being ordered by Barack Obama," he said. "Politics have got to go the way of the dodo bird when you leave the waters of the United States."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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