Langevin Statement on Authorization to Arm Syrian Rebels

Sep 16, 2014 Issues: Armed Services, Iraq and Afghanistan, Vote

During debate on the McKeon amendment to the Continuing Resolution, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) spoke on the House floor in favor of arming moderate Syrian rebels in the context of a broader coalition opposing ISIL.

Representative James R. Langevin
Statement on the McKeon Amendment to H.J.Res. 124
September 16, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise in support of the amendment offered by Chairman McKeon, and I want to be very clear about what is at stake here today.

The terrorist group ISIL poses a direct threat to our allies and friends in the Middle East. Left unchecked, their nihilistic vision could pose a direct threat to the United States, particularly given the number of individuals fighting with ISIL who have American and Western passports. I am gravely concerned that those individuals could return home and carry out acts of violence against the homeland. We face a clear imperative to act.

These terrorists have brutally murdered two unarmed American journalists and an aid worker from the United Kingdom. They have slaughtered thousands of innocent Muslims, killed children, and committed unspeakable atrocities against women and religious minorities.

ISIL and its agents operate without regard to international borders, and any strategy to degrade and defeat these terrorists must acknowledge this reality. In Iraq, the United States and its allies are operating in support, and at the request, of the sovereign government of Iraq, as well as Kurdish forces. We have friendly boots on the ground, and US advisors in place. But in Syria, we lack that clear partnership.

I believe the President has rightly committed to an approach that does not involve US combat troops fighting on foreign soil. But the opposition needs training and equipment that the US and its allies are able to provide.

Our commitment, however, needs to be matched by that of other countries in the region, including Sunni countries, with whom the United States has a rich history of partnership. After all, ISIL is not a problem just for the United States. It’s also a problem for the many Western countries with citizens fighting overseas. It’s a problem for our NATO allies, for whom Syria is a neighbor. And it’s a problem for the safety, security, and stability of the entire region.

But we can’t simply kill terrorists and expect to see democracy flourish. We must carefully consider the full range of possible outcomes in Syria, and what risks we may incur in a nation and region already riven by years of civil war, the use of weapons of mass destruction, and a terrible humanitarian crisis. This is an exceedingly complex task, but one that we must address. If we do not act, we face a darker, more uncertain future.

Congress and the Administration both must do their parts. Today’s amendment is only a down payment on what will assuredly be years of difficult oversight, debate, and discussion. It is far from a blank check. It will require a great deal of hard work, and there are many legitimate questions that remain to be answered. But we need to act, and I believe this amendment represents a prudent first step. I urge my colleagues to support the McKeon amendment, and I yield back my time.