News and Tribune

September 5, 2013

Young tells New Albany audience he's “leaning no” on military action in Syria

Congressman wants more answers from administration

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — Is there a broader plan for the Middle East? Who will assume power if the Syrian regime is crushed? How will punishing the country’s leadership for using chemical weapons  deter such acts in the future?

Typically during public forums, U.S. Rep. Todd Young primarily fields questions. While he answered inquirers from the audience in New Albany on Wednesday, Young also asked several questions of his own as they pertained to the big topic of the week, Syria.

And until President Barack Obama can provide answers to those questions, Young said he’s “leaning no” when it comes to voting in favor of bombing Syria.

“I hope a contingency plan has been formed. I haven’t seen one yet though,” Young told a crowd of about 60 people who gathered at Indiana University Southeast to hear him speak.

Though Obama has pledged not to send troops to Syria, Young said he’s cautious of further destabilizing the region through military action.

Garnering more allies including partners in the Middle East who’d be willing to address the situation in Syria through economic, humanitarian and possibly military actions would be wise, as entering a conflict without support from other countries is not a favorable proposition, Young continued.

“Certainly I think robust diplomacy is needed here,” Young said.

Obama announced on Saturday that he would seek approval from Congress to intervene in the civil war following reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime used chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.

The attack last month allegedly killed more than 1,400 people including at least 400 children.

The Senate is likely to vote next week when it reconvenes on measures related to approving military action there.

According to an Associated Press report on Thursday, 34 senators either support or are leaning in favor of military action with 26 opposed or leaning against and 40 undecided.

Young, R-Ind., conceded on Wednesday that he has yet to take part in a classified briefing about the alleged chemical attack.

The Obama administration has held some private meetings with congressional members about the situation in an attempt to gain support for military action.

Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week the administration isn’t planning on going to war with Syria.

“The president is asking for permission to take a limited military action, yes, but one that does not put Americans in the middle of the battle,” he said.

Young blamed the escalation in Syria on a number of causes including the historical and cultural differences in the country.

He also said removing U.S. military from Iraq has allowed the country to be a “fly over” for Iran to assist Syria.

Russia has also complicated the issue, as the country along with China have blocked U.S. attempts to garner U.N. action against Syria, Young continued.

He was asked several questions by the audience related to Syria, and Young insisted that Obama needs to be more forthcoming with information related to the conflict and in providing a plan for what happens after the attacks.

“I think they need to be addressed before we take military action there,” Young said.

Syria could be a national security threat if it has weapons of mass destruction, but simply bombing the country won’t fully eliminate that problem, he continued.

Young — who will be up for re-election in Indiana’s 9th District next year — also answered questions about the national deficit, college tuition and the tax code during the forum.

Young, who is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is pushing for Congress to reform the nation’s tax code.

He said simplifying the code and lowering taxes on businesses would boost the economy, and he’s confident some action will be taken possibly this year to reform the system.

Young’s stop in New Albany was one of several public forums he held during congress’s August recess.

Congress will return to session on Monday.