WASHINGTON * President Barack Obama's limited attempt to end more
than two years of bloodshed in Syria and his insistence on U.S.
assistance to a strife-riven Egypt have exposed deep divisions in
Congress, with pockets of grudging support countered by fierce
opposition toward greater American military and financial
involvement among Democrats and Republicans alike.
The uneven reaction is partly a reflection of the Obama
administration's own uncertain foreign policy path as it sorts out
America's role in an increasingly sectarian conflict in Syria that
threatens the entire Middle East. The ouster of Mohammed Morsi,
Egypt's first freely elected president, also created a web of
considerations related to advocating democracy or U.S. national
security goals. Lawmakers too are grappling with these questions.
Options for the U.S. military in Syria from arming groups
opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad to establishing a no-fly
zone carry risks and billion-dollar price tags, Gen. Martin
Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a sober
assessment this week.
Such guidance has created an unusual crisscrossing of positions
among liberals and conservatives in Congress and fiscal hawks and
military hawks. The Tea Party's libertarian leanings have split the
once firmly internationalist Republicans; some Democrats formerly
averse to intervention are more amenable to forceful action under
Congressional efforts to cut off funds for Syria and Egypt are
expected to be put to a vote today as the House debates a $598.3
billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
On Tuesday, a Senate panel approved aid for Egypt, with conditions.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign
Relations Committee, said he still believes the United States should
arm Syria's rebels but expressed reservations about a no-fly zone or
any other military action.
"I don't want to get into a situation where escalation is very
easy," Corker told reporters on Tuesday. "When you start a no-fly
zone, you're flying overhead and you're seeing tanks on the ground
killing people, what then do you start doing? For me, moving to that
point easily takes us to a place where escalation can occur."
Corker was scathing in his criticism of the administration for
refusing to outline publicly its plans for arming Syrian opposition
fighters. He said he requested a private briefing from the White
House this week, only to be denied.
"It's an embarrassment for this administration to want to do the
things they want to do covertly so that they don't talk with the
American public," he said.
'MESSY CIVIL WAR'
Another Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said he is
opposed to any American intervention, including providing weapons to
vetted Syrian rebels, irrespective of the costs. …