Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton On The Syrian AUMF Request
HH: Joined now by Congressman Tom Cotton, who is Congressman for Arkansas’ 4th Congressional district, is running for the United States Senate. Congressman Cotton, I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend.
TC: Good evening, Hugh, it’s great to be with you as always. It was interrupted by the President’s request that Congress pass a use of force resolution. So I returned to Washington on Sunday to participate in classified briefings and review classified materials, and prepare for the hearing that the House Foreign Affairs Committee will be having tomorrow with Mr. Hagel, Mr. Kerry and General Dempsey.
HH: What do you expect, have you have fashioned in your mind questions, yet, Congressman Tom Cotton?
TC: Well, I have said, Hugh, on your show last week, and for many months, that we need to take action against Syria, because our core national interests are at stake. America’s credibility is on the line, not just in Syria with chemical weapons, but also in Iran with its nuclear weapons program, that we need to preserve the international taboo against using chemical weapons, and that we need to strengthen our allies like Israel and Jordan, and weaken our enemies, like Iran and Hezbollah. So I hope that the two secretaries and the General tomorrow will advocate that kind of approach that is focused on the core national interests at stake in Syria. There are certainly humanitarian considerations in the use of chemical weapons and the murder of over 100,000 innocent civilians. But this operation has to be based, as military action always should be based, on our core national security interests, which in my opinion, are deeply implicated in Syria right now.
HH: Now there’s quite a split among Republicans, at least among those who have been vocal. And I am with you in this, in that the President has to be backed up, and the AUMF 2.0 has to be given to him. I would like to see it accompanied by increased spending for the military that’s called upon to carry this out, that maybe some outside of the sequester funding. And I know Buck McKeon will be joining me to talk about this tomorrow. But overall, what do you sense is the mood in the caucus?
TC: Well, Hugh, there is a division of opinion among Republicans, but let’s not forget, there’s a division of opinion among Democrats as well. And sometimes, it seems the media always focuses more on divided Republicans than divided Democrats. I would say that among my colleagues who are undecided, or who are hesitant about voting for a use of force resolution, their main concern is that Barack Obama’s failed leadership in Syria has made the situation there worse. If two years ago we had supported the native Syrian moderate rebels who were rising up against a tin pot dictator, al Qaeda might not have entered into the picture at all. Bashar al-Assad might not have ever used chemical weapons against his own people. Iran and Hezbollah wouldn’t have been sending thousands of fighters and millions of dollars in weapons and equipment there to fight. So yes, Barack Obama has made the situation in Syria worse than it needs to be. And I also have my own reservations about the kind of military campaign that he would execute. My position, though, is because our national interests are so clearly implicated, we shouldn’t ensure a bad outcome for America, which is damaged credibility, a weakening of the taboo against chemical weapons, and weakening our allies and emboldening our enemies. We should grant a use of force resolution, and then advocate that the President take the right kind of military action, effective and decisive action, not limited action that won’t achieve our strategic aims. And if he fails to do so, then we can criticize, we can critique, and we can advocate for effective action. But let’s at least ensure the possibility of a good, strategic outcome in Syria for the United States and for our allies.
HH: Do you think you will support Chairman McKeon’s effort to plus up the resolution to put in the sequester cut spending to the level that it would have been but for this attack?
TC: Hugh, that’s the first I’ve heard of that measure. As I have stated on our show and in other venues before, I believe that the radical budget cuts implemented against our military need to be revisited. We do need to increase military spending. Right now, we’re not cutting through muscle or fat. We’re cutting down to the bone. I do believe that overall levels of spending for the government should not increase. We should be using money that has been stuffed into domestic agencies to fund our military, which is the most important and the most essential part of our federal government, because it does the most essential job, to keep America safe. But I frankly right now can’t comment on any specific language, and any specific kind of resolution, because there are so many alternatives floating around. Whatever the language of the resolution, though, however it may change, it will not change the facts on the ground. And the facts in Syria are our core national security interests are implicated.
HH: And have you heard, yet, from your opponent next year, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, if he is going to be supporting the President’s request for force?
TC: To my knowledge, he has not yet taken a position. The Associate Press reported yesterday that he is waiting to hear more from the administration about what our interests are. I have clearly articulated what I think our interests are, and don’t need to wait for anyone else to relay it for me.
HH: Wow, he is leading from behind in the Senate race, Tom Cotton, and I know you are a Ranger, Rangers lead the way. Thanks for doing so. I appreciate you being on. Support Tom Cotton at www.tomcotton.com, America. We need him in the Senate.
End of interview.