But Kerry rattled senators when he said that, while the president “has no intention and we do not want to put American troops on the ground to fight this civil war” in Syria, he also did not want “to take off the table an option” for securing Syria’s chemical weapons.
He offered “hypotheticals,” such as the implosion of Syria, resulting in lost command and control of the country’s significant stockpiles of chemical weapons or a situation in which a chemical weapons “cache” falls into the hands of Al Qaeda-affiliated militants.
But the committee’s chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey, said, “I do think we are going to have to work on language that makes it clear” that the use of American troops is not authorized.
It was only after the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, admonished Secretary Kerry for his response to the use-of-troops question that Kerry offered an unequivocal ban on sending US soldiers into Syria.
“There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the Syrian civil war,” Kerry said, correcting his earlier statement.
That did not reassure Sen. Tom Udall (D) of New Mexico, who called the draft resolution the White House sent to the Hill Saturday “a very open-ended proposal” that he saw as a “potential next step towards full-fledged war.”
“We’re saying once again that the United States will be the world’s policeman,” he said, adding that it reminded him of the path to the Iraq war, which he called “one of the biggest blunders in US foreign policy.”
Senator Menendez, who is supportive of the administration’s request, sought to reassure his committee colleagues that the committee would fashion its own resolution and would not simply be tweaking the White House draft.