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One Key Factor In Rep. Welch Syria Vote

Congressman Peter Welch says his vote on President Obama’s plan to launch limited air strikes against Syria hinges on one important question: that’s a determination if these strikes will make matters better or worse on the ground in Syria.

Welch says he views this issue from two different perspectives and he says he’ll make his final vote on which policy approach makes the most sense for this country.

The question is the practical one, can we do this in a way that will make the situation better not worse ? Rep. Peter Welch

On one hand, Welch says the United States has a moral obligation to send a message to the world that Syria’s use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable. But he’s also concerned that launching limited air strikes will have unintended consequences that will make the conflict in Syria even worse than it is today.

“Now the point the President has made about the heinous nature of chemical weapons and how it’s in the advantage of the world community that the norm against the use of those weapons be enforced I think is a valid point. The question is the practical one, can we do this in a way that’ll make the situation better not worse?"

And Welch says the track record for this kind of limited military action isn’t very good.

“The $64 question is can it really be limited in proportional and can it be effective? And in fact the history of these attacks that are from what are called stand off weapons from bombers and from ships and submarines is that they tend not to be all that effective.”

Two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are sponsoring an alternative resolution. Under their plan, the air strikes would be delayed for 45 days to give President Bashar al-Assad time to support a ban on the future use of chemical weapons. Welch supports this approach.

“If Assad would agree to sign a ban that would be a great approach. I mean if he stopped using chemical weapons then the President’s goal would be achieved and there would be no military strike. Whether that’s doable whether Assad will cooperate that obviously I’m a skeptic that he would but Assad could deal with this whole situation by just joining the rest of the world community and pledge not to use poison gas and it’s really incredibly appalling that he would use this.”

Welch will be attending a series of classified military hearings on the President’s plan early next week.

The Senate is expected to vote on this issue on Wednesday. If the Senate supports the resolution, it will then go to the House for its consideration.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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