By Sam Friedman
All three members of Alaska's congressional delegation have lined up against U.S. military intervention in Syria and said they've received overwhelming constituent support for their position.
Republican Rep. Don Young, who's been Alaska's sole representative in the House of Representatives since 1973, said constituent response to the Syria question has exceeded previous reactions to numerous high-profile national issues, including the Affordable Health Care Act, the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The issue has generated more than 1,000 responses from Alaskans, almost all of them against military intervention.
"I was out in front on this issue with Syria because I don't believe in being involved in civil wars. The American public in general rose up and said "We're not going to do this,' and that made me feel good," he said.
As to the latest development in the issue, a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to voluntarily given up his stores of chemical weapons in exchange for avoiding U.S. military strikes, Young said it's too soon to know if it will work. It doesn't change his opposition to U.S. military strikes in Syria.
Democratic Sen. Mark Begich initially said he could only support military force in Syria under limited circumstances.
"Any military option must be immediate and in short duration to address the alleged use of chemical weapons," he said in a news release last month. "As I have said, I do not want any American boots on the ground in Syria and we must clearly understand any and all risks that action could cause to the United States and its citizens. Finally, the anticipated costs and defined end state or exit strategy must be agreed upon before military force is used."
His spokesman Heather Handyside said this week that the most recent developments are promising.
"He's always hoped that Russia would be involved in any kind of solution, so it's a good sign," she said.
This week, more than 6,000 Alaskans chose to stay on the line and listen when they received a call inviting them to participate in a telephonic town hall meeting about Syria with Begich, she said.
Matthew Felling, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said Murkowski also had a robust response from constituents this week about Syria. Her press release expressed interest but skepticism in the plan to have Assad hand over his chemical weapons.
"The devised plan must include a series of binding protocols to secure all of Syria's chemical weapons, destroy them, and allow verification that such actions have occurred," her news release stated.