Johnson to Kerry: If We Are Going to Strike Syria, Why Not Deliver a 'Knockout Punch'?

Kerry: Because president has listened to American people and made a 'policy decision' against a broader operation

September 3, 2013

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) asked Secretary of State John Kerry why the U.S. has elected against delivering a full scale "knockout punch" to Assad if President Obama has already decided to strike Syria Tuesday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Kerry replied the president has made a "policy decision" based on what he has heard from the American people and determined that it is not something the "United States of America needs to engage in or ought to engage in."

The Secretary of State also cited legal issues, the cost, and military commitment associated with a month long bombardment of Syria to eradicate the Assad regime as variables that factored into President Obama's calculation:

JOHNSON: But our goal is to get rid of Assad.

KERRY: Our goal is to help the opposition. There are lots of -- I mean, you have to look, overall, the president and, I think, all of us agree, I mean, can you imagine Assad running Syria? Can you imagine this man who has gassed his people --

JOHNSON: Again, I'm trying to reconcile why, if we're going to go in there militarily, if we're going to strike, why wouldn't we try to do some kind of knockout punch? Is it because we simply have no faith that there's anybody on the ground, the rebels, to take control of the situation --

KERRY: No, no, absolutely --

JOHNSON: Or is it not ready for a regime change. Is that the problem?

KERRY: No, Senator, that's not the reason. The reason is that the president is listening to the American people and has made a policy decision in addition that that is not something that the United States of America needs to engage in or ought to engage in. That is a much broader operation.

JOHNSON: But it's the stated goal.

JOHN KERRY: It is. It is, Senator. Is the Congress of the United States ready to pay for 30 days of 30,000 air strikes to take out [Assad], and is there a legal justification for doing that? And you can run through a whole series of different questions here that are very serious about what you're talking about.