BOSTON — Members of the state’s congressional delegation urged caution on Wednesday as President Barack Obama weighed a U.S. response to the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren said the alleged chemical attack on civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s administration is reprehensible but the U.S. must have an achievable goal before taking action.
“It’s critically important that we remember about unintended consequences,” Warren said. “We may have good intentions, but the consequences of our acts are not limited by those intentions.”
Sen. Edward Markey said it’s important for the U.S. to send a message that chemical weapons are unacceptable, but he said any strike should be narrow and targeted at chemical weapons capabilities. He said the U.S. cannot get bogged down in a civil war.
“As long as it was surgical, limited and not involving American ground troops then it is possible for us to send a strong signal to Assad that chemical weapons are not usable in the 21st century,” he said.
Rep. Stephen Lynch said the U.S. should seek international support, including the backing of NATO, before any attack. Lynch, echoing the comments of other members of the state’s all-Democratic delegation, also said that no decision should be made without consulting Congress.
“We should have meaningful debate,” he said.
The Obama administration in recent days has made clear it believes it must take punitive action against Syria for the use of chemical weapons, which are banned by international convention. Obama on Wednesday declared unequivocally the United States has “concluded” the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians, but he didn’t present any direct evidence.
The group Doctors Without Borders says an Aug. 21 attack outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, killed 355 people.
U.S. officials are still grappling with how to design a military strike to deter future chemical weapons attacks in Syria and assessing how Assad might respond.
Assad has denied using chemical weapons, calling the allegations “preposterous.”
Rep. John Tierney said there are other governments and political groups in the region that should step up, including Turkey and the 22-member Arab League, which has blamed the Syrian regime for the attack and called for justice for victims.
“There are a lot of players,” Tierney said, “and the United States doesn’t always have to be the most outraged and the most aggressive.”
Rep. Michael Capuano said he’s always hesitant to vote for military action but conceded some kind of strike may be imminent. If so, he said, the Obama administration must call Congress back into session and consult with it.
The potential for a strike comes as most members of Congress have left Washington and are in their home districts.
Capuano said that while he has no doubt the U.S. would be able to mount a successful strike the fallout is tough to predict.
“The question is what happens the day after military action in both Syria and the region,” he said. “Is it a wise move in the short term and more importantly in the long term?”