By Diana Washington Valdez
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said Monday he is convinced that U.S. military intervention will not make things better in Syria, or protect U.S. national security.
"If a vote on a unilateral strike by the U.S. military against Syria were held today, I would have to vote no," O'Rourke said.
The congressman from El Paso said he arrived at his decision after listening to his constituents, hearing key administration leaders and sitting in on secure briefings on the Syrian crisis.
"After listening to the views of other members of Congress and convening a town hall last week to hear from over 200 constituents directly and many thousands more who have contacted my offices, my position on Syria remains that U.S. military intervention will not make things in that country better," O'Rourke said. "I do not believe there is a military solution to the complex civil war that is occurring in Syria and I have not been persuaded that a unilateral American military response will improve the humanitarian crisis facing millions of Syrians. More importantly it will not make the United State any safer."
O'Rourke commended the president for seeking Congressional authorization before taking such military action.
"However, it has still not been clearly explained what the extent of our involvement in Syria will be, what it will cost this country, in money and lives, what our clear objectives are, and how we will know that we've succeeded in achieving them," he said. "In addition, it is unclear what the consequences of unilateral military involvement will be.
"Is retaliation against the U.S. a possibility or could a U.S. strike spark a regional war? Without clear answers to these questions and without the affirmative backing of the international community, I cannot vote for war."
O'Rourke said he urges the administration and the rest of the international community to pursue all alternatives to military intervention.
U.S. lawmakers are not following party lines in their responses to the president's request for authorization to use the U.S. military against the Syrian regime.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D- N.M., said in a statement Monday that he supports President Obama's request for permission to use military force.
"I will seek to make sure that the resolution before the Senate remains narrow in scope and does not put American troops on the ground in another Middle Eastern war," Heinrich said. "But I believe that President Obama and the international community should be able to send a message to Bashar al-Assad that he is not above international norms and that he will
suffer real, military consequences should he choose to gas civilians."
U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, who also attended classified briefings Monday on Syria, issued a statement as he continues to ponder his decision. Gallego represents a portion of El Paso County.
"Ultimately, I'll make a decision based on the final language of any authorization to use military force and its relationship to any threat to American security or the security of America's interests," Gallego said. "I know how critical it is to get this right and want to hear from everyone about their opinions on Syria."
In a Tweet Sunday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, "I think a military attack on Syria is a mistake."
John Cornyn, the other Texas U.S. senator and also a Republican, has called on the president to bring his petition before Congress and present his case to the American people. Cornyn has been leaning against authorizing U.S. military intervention.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he plans to have a news conference Tuesday to discuss his position on Syria. He said during an interview in Sunday's "Meet the Press" NBC-TV program that he does not favor the U.S. intervening militarily in Syria.
U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a native of El Paso and chairwoman of the House Task Force on Global Peace and Security, said in a statement that she is likely to vote against military intervention, and is looking instead for another solution to the crisis.