By Houston Chronicle
Texas Republicans expressed uncertainty and concern in the Syria debate during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said he is concerned about the repercussions if – or when – the Assad regime falls from power if the United States decides to use military force in Syria.
“We saw what happened in Libya. My greatest concern is who is going to fill the vacuum when the Assad regime falls, which we know it will,” said McCaul, the chairman of House Homeland Security Committee.
Rep. Michael McCaul: “Who is going to fill the vacuum when the Assad regime falls?” (AP photo)
“My concern is that any strike against this regime will empower these radical Islamists…these extremists,” he said.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, also shared his worry about possible retaliation if the U.S. uses military force in Syria.
“What do we do if they literally shoot back at Americans or our friends the Israelis?” Poe said.
Secretary of State John Kerry maintained during the entire hearing that there would be more attacks if the U.S. does not act.
“The world is wondering whether the United States of America is going to consent through silence to stand aside while this kind of brutality is allowed to happen without consequence,” he said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey responded and said that the limited nature of the possible Syrian attack would help limit the possibility of retaliation, though he said he could not rule out the chance and said that the U.S. would be equipped to handle retribution.
“We would have the ability to control the response on our terms,” he said.
Another worry, Poe said, was that the world is unsure of America’s foreign policies in the Middle East.
“We have a credibility problem because our foreign policy in the Middle East is inconsistent,” he said.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said he continues to support a strike in Syria, but expressed his curiosity about what kind of precedent the U.S. would set if it did not act.
Kerry said the failure to respond in Syria would send a “very unusual statement.”
“It will invite other contests of conflict that will put us to the test and potentially with much greater consequences,” he said.
Other concerns brought up by several members of the committee were costs to taxpayers and unintended consequences of the conflict.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responded that the cost of attacking Syria would be tens of millions of dollars.
“This is a very dangerous step that we are taking. I believe we have to be very careful about how we proceed,” McCaul said.