These US forces, he said, are not meant to be a stepping stone to US troops on the ground fighting alongside rebel contingents struggling to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
That’s because “a military intervention could have the unintended consequences of bringing the United States into a broader regional conflict, or proxy war,” Hagel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have an obligation and responsibility to think through the consequences of direct – any direct – US military action in Syria.”
A US military intervention could “hinder humanitarian relief options,” he explained. It could also “embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy, and uncertain military commitment.”
Not all lawmakers were impressed by this argument. Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona called the notion that a US military operation against Mr. Assad could hinder humanitarian actions “almost laughable.”
In refugee camps, people “are angry and bitter because we haven’t helped them. And we are breeding a generation of people who will – as was articulated to me by a teacher in one of the refugee camps – these children will take revenge on the people who refused to help them.”
The responsibility of his job, he said, “has been and will always will be to provide the secretary of Defense and the president of the United States with options. Some of these options involve the use of military force.”