Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday rebutted President Obama’s prime-time address on Syria, saying that the White House hadn’t laid out any clear goal other than to fight to a “stalemate” with the Assad regime.
“Really what we’re talking about is an ‘unbelievably small’ and unbelievably short response,” Paul said on Fox News, referencing Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of a potential U.S. military strike.
The White House has said the goal of a strike would be to wipe out the Assad regime’s capacity to deliver chemical warheads. The administration has backtracked on Kerry’s remarks about an “unbelievably small” military operation by arguing that U.S. military capabilities are so far ahead of other nations that even a limited strike would be devastating.
Paul, who has been one of the most vocal opponents to a U.S. military strike against the Assad regime in Syria, said the president didn’t lay out a compelling argument about why a strike on Syria was in the best interests of U.S., and said the rebel forces battling Syrian president Bashar Assad had also committed atrocities and could not be trusted.
In his Tuesday address, Obama made the case that Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people necessitated a response because it broke international law and could provoke other rogue regimes to turn their chemical weapons on U.S. targets.
The Kentucky Republican was also critical of a United Nations effort to secure Syria's chemical weapons that the White House embraced on Tuesday. The potential diplomatic solution came about after Kerry spoke, apparently off-the-cuff, about an offer that the Russians later pounced on.
“It kind of looks like President Obama has been out-maneuvered by Putin here in the last week or so,” Paul said. “I don’t know whether to trust the proposal or not. I do know that when you see the speech…it seems almost offhand or flippant, that he didn’t really expect anyone to respond. Putin then responds, calls their bluff, so the question is, are they serious?”
Obama said Tuesday he was committed to pursuing the “peaceful solution” through the United Nations.