CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Liz Cheney and Sen. Mike Enzi are sharing common ground on the question of what the U.S. should do about Syria, with both candidates suggesting that President Barack Obama has been indecisive before and since the recent deadly gas attack there.
Cheney has dug in for a more than yearlong campaign to try to unseat Enzi, a fellow Republican, and last weekend criticized Enzi as not forcefully standing up for Wyoming’s interests, including protecting the state’s vast coal industry. Enzi denied the charge.
Now, as Obama moves ever closer to some kind of military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad for the Aug. 21 attack the administration says killed more than 1,400 people, Enzi and Cheney are sounding similar. Both say Obama already could have acted.
Obama apparently wants to use the military to send a message but that’s a poor use of military power, Cheney said in a phone interview from Jackson on Friday.
The U.S. could have intervened in Syria two years ago but lacks good options now that Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists have infiltrated the Syrian opposition, she said.
“It’s a very clear example of what happens when the United States fails to lead. You begin to see groups like the radical Islamist organizations that clearly don’t share our interests step into the vacuum left when the U.S. steps away,” Cheney said.
The U.S. need not have intervened with troops on the ground in Syria, she said, but could have offered various kinds of support to the rebels opposing Assad.
In a statement through a spokesman, Enzi said Obama should have had a response to chemical weapons use ready to implement but has been “dragging his feet” on Syria.
“President Obama drew a line in the sand with Syria and has done nothing. Al-Assad’s actions are deplorable and he must be held accountable for his actions,” Enzi said.
An Obama spokeswoman declined to comment on what Cheney and Enzi said, pointing instead to what Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said in public already.
The international community already should have acted forcefully to hold Syria accountable for using chemical weapons, Obama said Friday.
“Ultimately we don’t want the world to be paralyzed. And, frankly, you know, part of the challenge that we end up with here is that a lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it,” he said in discussion his rationale for action.
Obama called responding to chemical weapons use as consistent with national security interests. Enzi and Cheney questioned what U.S. interests are at stake.
“We need to know what United States interest is at risk, what difference would we make, what would the goal be, and how would we know when we had achieved the goal,” Enzi said. “Foreign policy needs to be thought out and less reactionary. I am deeply concerned that President Obama has not done that.”
Enzi spokesman Dan Head said the threat of chemical weapons use in Syria is nothing new. Obama should have anticipated, discussed and planned for the U.S. response through by now, he said.
“The president has done nothing to involve Congress or bring the American people around to whatever his decision is. That’s not leadership, it’s a reactionary response that isn’t though out and is exactly what Sen. Enzi is concerned about,” Head said by email.
Cheney said she had difficulty seeing what “serious strategic purpose” Obama proposes to accomplish.
“I think it’s a real shame,” she said. “Anything that we were going to do to effectively help the opposition we should have done two years ago. By sitting back and waiting we’ve allowed a situation to develop where there’s no good option for the United States.”
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