This evening, the U.S. Senate voted on Amendment No. 3245 to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would require a report on military activities to deny or significantly degrade the use the use of air power against civilian and opposition groups in Syria. Sen. Rand Paul voiced his opposition to the amendment, noting that Congress should not require the military to disclose its plans without debate nor should the amendment contain language authorizing the use of force.
Despite Sen. Paul's arguments against this amendment, it passed 92-6.
Moments before the vote, Sen. Paul took to the Senate floor to speak out against the amendment. Below is video and transcript of his floor speech.
The amendment before us requires that the President submit a plan for a no-fly zone over Syria. I want to compliment the authors for including in this amendment a clause that says that nothing in this amendment is to be construed as a declaration of war or a use of authorization of force. I think that's very important.
I think it's very important in our nation today that we are not saying that we are starting or beginning or getting involved in a new war.
I do think, however, though, that this amendment is ill-advised for two reasons - No. 1, I don't think I know with certainty whether the Syrian rebels will be freedom loving, tolerant, Constitution toting, believers in a Republican form of government or whether they will institute an Islamic republic that will have no tolerance for Christians and no tolerance for people of any other faith.
It still remains to be seen whether the secular government whether a secular government will be established in Libya, Tunisia or Egypt. There is the question is al-Qaida more or less of a threat in Libya today since the rebels have won the civil war? I don't think we know for certain what a rebel government in Syria will do with the one million Christians who live in Syria.
Since the Iraq War, hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq and gone to Syria. Apparently, Syria was seen as more of a tolerant nation than Iraq, even after the war.
So will a rebel Islamic government in Syria tolerate or persecute Christians? Will a rebel Islamic government institute the death penalty for blasphemy, the death penalty for conversion, the death penalty for apostasy? Will we have true democracy? Will we have a secular government or will we have a Syrian rebel government that is less tolerant than what we currently have?
In many ways, the Arab Spring has become the Arab Winter. In Egypt, we have a leader of Egypt from the Muslim brotherhood. He was seen recently to recite 'Amen,' as a radical cleric stood up and said, 'death to Israel and anyone who supports them." The Muslim brotherhood leader of Egypt that came out of the Arab spring is nodding his head in assent and seemed to be chanting amen.
Will the Syrian rebels seek peace with Israel or war? Will the Syrian rebels seek a secular government or one ruled by sharia? I think there are many unknowns that we need to be asking ourselves before we involve ourselves in a civil war.
Secondly, I think it's a bad idea to discuss contingency plans for war. While I'm in favor of the Senate retaining our prerogative to declare war, I believe that the details of the execution of war are in the purview of the executive.
In other words, we do have the power to begin or not begin a war. That is the power the Constitution gave us, but I don't think the Constitution intended to have 535 generals. I don't think it intended to have us explicitly talking about every contingency plan for every possible war in every corner of the globe.
Our Defense Department no doubt has contingency plans for a ballistic missile attack on the United States, for a conventional land invasion, for naval or air encounters throughout the world, but we don't necessarily openly discuss them or encourage them.
I don't think it's best to openly discuss these plans for defending against attack and especially not for involving ourselves in a civil war. Our nation and our soldiers are weary of war. Our nation yearns for leaders who will strive to keep us out of war. Our nation yearns for leaders who are reluctant to begin a new war or get involved in a new war.
I hope my colleagues today will not encourage a rush to war by publicly clamoring for a plan to become involved in Syria's civil war.