Florida's leaders in Washington are reacting to the crisis in Syria and weighing in on whether the U.S. should take action.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
"There should be moral outrage over the use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians in Syria. At this point, I believe it appropriate to take military action with NATO and our regional allies. Inaction would only lead to greater suffering and instability in the region and would further embolden Assad."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
"The United States has significant national interests at stake in the conflict in Syria. First, Assad is a close ally and supporter of the Iranian regime. He has allowed Syria to be used as a staging ground and way station for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Second, an unstable Syria threatens to become the premier operational area in the world from which jihadis can train, plan and carry out attacks against our allies in the region including Israel and even the United States.
That is why at the outset of this conflict more than two years ago, I argued that the United States should identify non-jihadist groups in Syria and help train and equip them so that they could not only topple Asaad, but also be the best organized, trained and armed group on the ground in a post-Assad Syria.
Instead, the President chose to lead from behind. The result is that the best funded and armed groups in Syria today are Assad's Iranian-backed killers, Hezbollah fighters aligned with Assad, and rebels with links to al Qaeda.
President Obama's inaction is why we are now left with an emboldened war criminal in power in Syria, willing to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. And it leaves us with a chaotic situation in much of Syria that is becoming like pre-9/11 Afghanistan, the premier operational area in the world for foreign jihadist fighters.
Because the President failed to act in the right way at the right time, we are now left with no good options. Failing to act would further embolden Assad and his Iranian sponsors, leaving the impression that America is feckless and impotent. And a limited attack would do nothing to change the dynamics of the conflict, but could trigger a broader and even more dangerous conflict in the region.
Given those harsh realities, if the President concludes that military action is warranted, instead of having administration officials leak details to the press, he must clearly lay out to Congress and the American people why this is in our national interest, what the goals of this action are, and how the military action he is taking would achieve this objective.
I am deeply concerned that so far he has failed to do this. Military action, taken simply to save face, is not a wise use of force. My advice is to either lay out a comprehensive plan using all of the tools at our disposal that stands a reasonable chance of allowing the moderate opposition to remove Assad and replace him with a stable secular government. Or, at this point, simply focus our resources on helping our allies in the region protect themselves from the threat they and we will increasingly face from an unstable Syria."
Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando (District 9)
"Rep. Alan Grayson's opposition to the potential U.S. military involvement in the Syrian civil war has strong support across the country. More than 10,000 people signed his 'Don't Attack Syria' petition in less than 24 hours. Grayson launched the petition Thursday night at the website dontattacksyria.com.
Grayson explained his reasoning during several national media interviews. He said, in part, 'One thing that is perfectly clear to me in my district, and I think is true in many other districts from speaking to other members, is that there is no desire on the part of the American People to be the world’s policemen.'
Rep. Grayson serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and has actually visited Syria. Those experiences give him a unique perspective when assessing the true nature of any so-called 'threat' to the United States posed by Syria.
Congressman Grayson's petition reads as follows: 'The Administration is considering intervening in the Syrian civil war. We oppose this. There's no vital national security involved, even if the Syrian government is proved to have deliberately used chemical weapons, which is a big "if." The evidence put forward so far on the deliberate use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is ambiguous at best. What is not ambiguous is that defense contractor Raytheon's stock is up 20% in the last 60 days. It seems that nobody wants US intervention in Syria except the military-industrial complex. I oppose US military intervention in Syria. Join me.'"
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge (District 8)
"Congressman Posey is opposed to military intervention in Syria and has voted to block such action. He firmly believes that the president needs Congressional Approval before attacking another country.
He believes Assad is a very bad man. But, we still don't have a clear understanding of who would be helped by an attack on Assad. Would it be Al Qaeda? The Muslim Brotherhood? All of these groups are engaged in fighting Assad.
There are still many unanswered questions that should be answered before an attack, such as how is Syria a threat to our national security? What does the president hope to achieve by this action -- long-term and near-term? What becomes of the tons of chemical weapons in Syria in the aftermath of an attack, in the aftermath of Assad? Whose hands do they end up in?
This has serious implications and we should learn from mistakes made in Libya."
Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden (District 10)
"While the atrocities committed in Syria are tragic, it remains the President's responsibility to consult with Congress prior to ordering any military intervention that is not a direct response to a threat to our national security."
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor (District 12)
"I appreciate the President's decision to respect the role of Congress and seek Congressional approval before taking military action in Syria. Engaging our military should include a clear, attainable goal and consider whether a direct national security risk to the United States exists. I share the concerns of many of my constituents in engaging in this civil war and will be returning to Washington to examine the evidence and debate this on the House floor."
Rep. Kathy Castor, R-Tampa (District 14)
"Without a direct threat to the national security of the United States, I oppose an overt military strike against Syria. As I have visited with my neighbors across my district this month I have heard from many of them who are extremely wary of military action that could lead to greater entanglement in a region where fighting factions are not aligned with the United States and our allies or our national interests. I urge you to be cautious and conservative and fully analyze the strategic aftermath.
"As the Administration contemplates military action, I certainly expect that you do so in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act that require the concurrence of the Congress. To date, most members have not been briefed, let alone had an opportunity to debate use of military force. This is necessary before the Administration acts.
"An overt military strike by the United States is likely to exacerbate violence in the Middle East and put needed stability further out of reach. In Syria, the civil war for dominance between the controlling Arab Alawites, the Arab Sunni majority, the Kurdish minority, and other Christian and Druze minorities is complicated by proxy actors in the region and decades of incompetent authoritarian leadership and economic stagnation. A singular military strike by the United States will not change these dynamics. How the United States counters decades and sometimes centuries of repression is a long-term and difficult task. America is most effective when working together with other countries to focus economic, military, diplomatic and humanitarian leadership on a solution. At times coordinated military action is necessary to combat atrocities that violate international law or to protect innocent people from harm. No unified international coalition appears to exist for such coordinated overt military action at this time. In fact, the Arab League and most of our allies have declined to recommend such action.
"I strongly reject the view that the lack of an overt military strike is equivalent to U.S. inaction in the face of the brutality and violation of international norms by Assad and Syria. In fact, America has been engaged in Syria for years through extensive covert actions, robust diplomatic efforts, and enormous humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. We all strongly condemn the reprehensible actions of the Syrian Assad regime and I understand that the Administration feels compelled to address the atrocities. At this time, I urge the Administration to focus on measures that bring stability to the region and not exacerbate the dire situation through overt military action."
Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores (District 13)
Rep. C.W. Bill Young says he's unconvinced about the need to take military action against Syria, despite Obama administration officials insisting in a call Thursday night with ranking members of Congress that they have proof chemical weapons were used.
"They did not give any timetable" or specifics on what action could be taken, Young said.
Read the rest of the interview with our partners at the Tampa Bay Times.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland (District 15)
"Before we fire into a very serious situation without a clear success strategy and without allies, we must work together with the international community that we first joined in making the laws we now want to unilaterally enforce while assessing America's interest and our national security."
Read Rep. Ross' op-ed published by our partner paper, the Ledger.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota (District 16)
From a statement on Rep. Buchanan's site:
“With no direct threat to the United States and no discernible military objective, I cannot support committing American military might to a civil war in the Middle East where the lines are blurred between friend and foe,” Buchanan said.
The Florida Congressman noted that more than 95 percent of the phone calls and emails to his office from constituents have been against American intervention. “The case has not been made for why U.S. involvement is vital to our national security.”
Buchanan also expressed concern that a “limited” military strike could weaken U.S. credibility in the world and further destabilize the Middle East.
“The last thing we want to do is incite further chaos in a part of the world that is already unstable,” he said.
Buchanan said he would continue to listen to his constituents and attend a classified briefing prior to next week’s vote in Congress on whether to authorize the use of military force against Syria.