September 4, 2013

Collins: Obama put U.S. in 'no-win situation'

She calls the president's 'red line' comment 'hasty.' She and Sen. King remain undecided on U.S. action.

By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, had harsh words Tuesday for President Obama, who she said has put the country into a "no-win situation" by issuing an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad without fully considering the consequences.

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins spoke about the proposal for military action against Syria during a speech in Waterville on Tuesday. Collins said a plan to launch missiles at Syrian military sites is extremely difficult and one that she will consider. "I am pleased the administration is going to Congress with the proposal," Collins said.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Collins said she is pleased that Obama has sought congressional approval for a possible military strike against Syria, which the White House said used chemical weapons against its own people.

However, the president acted too quickly in August 2012, when he warned that Syria's use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" resulting in serious consequences, said Collins, who spoke at a local chamber of commerce event Tuesday.

"I cannot help but wonder if the president hadn't made the comment about drawing the red line, if we would be in the situation that we're in now," Collins said. "I think that was a hasty comment that was made without his having a well-vetted plan for what he would do if Assad did cross that line."

While Republican national leaders came out in favor of a military strike Tuesday, Maine's senators reserved judgment.

Collins said she has not decided how she will vote on the issue, which is expected to come before Congress next week.

On Tuesday morning, independent Sen. Angus King released a statement that said he had not decided whether to support a military strike against Syria.

Crystal Canney, a spokeswoman for King, said King was gathering information through congressional briefings and other means and might make a decision later this week.

Collins said she is concerned about the possible consequences of any decision by Congress. If there is no military response, she said, it could embolden Iran, which she referred to as a "rogue state" developing a nuclear weapon.

She said military action inevitably would cause the deaths of innocent people. She also expressed concern that a military strike would involve the U.S. in Syria's civil war, and that there might be undesirable implications for the entire region.

"I think that we've been put into a terrible situation, a truly no-win situation," Collins said.

Collins made the remarks at the Leading Women's Luncheon, an event hosted by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce that celebrates women leaders.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:
mhhetling@mainetoday.com

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