Washington D.C.House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at today’s hearing on Syria:

“Thank you, Chairman McKeon.  And I would like to thank all of our distinguished witnesses for appearing today—Secretary Hagel, Secretary Kerry, and General Dempsey.  As Congress considers whether or not to authorize military action against Syria, I appreciate you coming here today to help us think this through.

“I remain undecided about how to vote on any proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force.  Certainly, we do not yet have a final text on what Congress will be asked to vote, and changes to what would or would not be authorized could change many members’ minds, including my own.  But I am also undecided on the wisdom of the underlying proposal—that the United States should undertake limited strikes in Syria to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons and to attempt to uphold international norms regarding chemical weapons.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and the President this evening on this subject.          

“The attack by President Assad’s forces on August 21st that murdered over 1400 people and killed over 400 children was a despicable act that has been properly condemned by nations from all over the world.   And we should not forget that this abhorrent act came in the context of a civil war that has caused the deaths of over 100,000 people.

“As we consider a response to the Syrian regimes actions, I have two related lines of questioning that I would ask our witnesses to address.  First, given that we have declared that any strikes would not be aimed at regime change in Syria, is it truly possible to hold the Assad regime accountable for this attack and is it possible to do that with a limited strike?  The Administration has said that they are not willing to end the regime because it would cause chaos that would benefit al Qaeda and other extremists.  In that context, it will be difficult to conduct an attack that is simultaneously strong enough to convince Assad, and other international actors, that we are serious without weakening the regime, but not so much that we inadvertently help al Qaeda.

“My second line of questioning is about what comes next?  If a strike does weaken Assad or cause him to change his calculus and actually enter a Geneva 2 process of transition, are we ready?  Assad will leave some day, so what are we doing to prepare for that?  A moderate opposition capable of taking power and acting responsibly to secure Syrian territory and oppose both Iranian influence and al Qaeda affiliates is not likely to emerge spontaneously, so I hope our witnesses can talk today about how we and our regional partners and allies can encourage such a development.

“Again, I would like to thank our witnesses for appearing here today.  This is an incredibly important decision, and I very much appreciate them helping us think this through.”