September 03, 2013

Kaine Questions Kerry, Hagel, Dempsey On Use Of Military Force In Syria

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, participated in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing today on the President’s request for authorization of the use of military force in Syria. During the hearing, Kaine questioned Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey about the use of chemical weapons and violation of longstanding international norms by Bashar al Assad’s regime.

“I don’t know of a higher principle of the relations of states, of the law of nations, of the sort of international legal morality than ‘no use of weapons of mass destructions against civilians.’ And that is the principle that is at stake as we wrestle with this request of the president on this committee.” Kaine said. “As you said Secretary Kerry, it’s not about if the weapons of mass destruction exist – they exist. It’s not just whether they exist - they’ve been used, they’ve been used against civilians, they’ve been used against civilians on a massive scale, including women and children.”

Describing the international norm against the use of chemical weapons as one of “longstanding origin,” as well as one that both Syria and Russia have signed onto, Kaine strongly expressed hope that the U.S. Congress cares about the principle in its decision-making process.

In his questioning, Kaine also outlined the case for why limited military action in Syria could ultimately help move both parties closer to a political solution. 

“If we take action, action to degrade the ability of Syria to use chemical weapons, action to degrade their ability to violate international law, it will take away a significant asset that they have in their battle against the opposition,” said Kaine. “It will level the playing field by removing the ability to use chemical weapons and it will therefore increase the odds that the parties will then come to the table to try to figure out that political solution.”

Kaine has been active on the issue of consultation between the executive and legislative branches on military action, in Syria and overall. In July, Kaine announced a joint effort to reform the 1973 War Powers Resolution in a way that lays out a clear consultative process between Congress and the President on whether and when to engage in military action. 

“I view it [the need for congressional approval] as reflecting a very important underlying value, and the value is this: we shouldn’t put servicemembers into initiating battle, putting people into harm’s way if they don’t have the consensus behind them, the American public, political leadership behind them,” said Kaine. “To send young men and women into war or into a military action where they are exercising military options with a divided political leadership class is the worst thing we can do.”

Kaine will participate in closed Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee hearings tomorrow with votes on a resolution authorizing military force expected tomorrow in the Foreign Relations Committee and in the full Senate next week.