Supporting Obama's New Syria Strategy

In an interview with The Root, Rep. Gregory Meeks explains why a diplomatic solution is the better way.

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I was among the first members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to express my concern about another U.S. military engagement. The nation is war-weary. Our troops and military families have borne the burden of a decadelong war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The American people are increasingly disillusioned with what appears to be unbridled U.S. engagement abroad, and lack of congressional leadership on domestic issues that affect their everyday lives.

I stand with those who seek diplomatic solutions. And though I am deeply disturbed by the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, any response must be an international response, not a U.S. unilateral action. What's important for people to understand is that Assad's regime violated international norms of conduct. To that end, it must be met with an international condemnation.

TR: As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, you are privy to classified information. Is there anything you can tell us now that you were unable to speak candidly about before?

GM: What the latest developments show is the extent to which the president never stopped negotiating. After he left for the G-20 summit, he was actively engaged in closed-door diplomatic talks with Russia. That is something most people didn't realize until now, but President Obama had kept our committee briefed throughout, and we were well-informed.

TR: So what now? If the critics are right and Russia and Syria are simply trying to delay, will the president be forced to take military action after all?

GM: The great thing about this new process is that if Russia stalls or if Syria fails in their obligations, the entire international community will see it for what it is. Everything would come to light. And that will only strengthen the resolve of our partners to act in a concerted effort. The United States would not need to go it alone. We could begin to build a strong multilateral coalition.

I can also say that in the unlikely case that military action must be taken, the committee has been briefed on a plan that would stay true to the president's stated goals -- to cripple Assad's regime and debilitate their potential use of chemical weapons -- but that would not require boots on the ground or burden the U.S. with the responsibility we had in Iraq: to rebuild a nation.

I'm confident because this president has always kept his word. He promised he'd get Osama bin Laden, and he did. He promised limited intervention in Libya, and he did just that. He promised to put al-Qaida on the run, and though it hasn't been easy and there has been push-back because of the drone program, al-Qaida has been weakened significantly.

TR: How do you feel about the Republican response to this crisis and their continued efforts to obstruct the president on both foreign policy and domestic issues?