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.”