WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday night that congressional rejection of military action in Syria would not be “catastrophic,” as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asserted earlier in the day.
Instead, Inhofe said, being pulled into a protracted struggle as the U.S. military suffers from deep budget cuts would be the real problem.
Inhofe, who has attended a series of briefings in the past two days and has more scheduled Tuesday, has stressed repeatedly that the U.S. military was not prepared for another major military operation.
He said he was not talking about launching some cruises missiles at Syria; that could be managed, he said.
However, “That would be defined in the Middle East, particularly in Syria, as a major act of war by the United States,” Inhofe said in an interview. “And then we're going to get drawn into something deeper.”
McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with President Barack Obama on Monday. After that meeting, McCain said it would be catastrophic for Congress to reject a resolution on military action “not just for him but for the institution of the presidency and the credibility of the United States.”
Inhofe said, “Quite often I disagree with John McCain and Lindsey Graham. This is definitely one of those times. ... Our stature is not at stake.”
The senator said he agreed with Secretary of State John Kerry that the use of chemical weapons was “horrible.” But he said many experts have predicted that a U.S. military strike actually could lead Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to kill more of his people.
Inhofe said he would continue to listen to what the Obama administration has to say over the next few days.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is planning a hearing on the administration's request for military action.