National Security

Rubio: We Don’t Authorize Force If You’re Not Putting Troops in Position to Win

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) defended his and others' vote in Congress not to grant President Obama authority to strike Syria in 2013 at Wednesday's Republican debate, saying "we are not going to authorize use of force if you're not putting men and women in a position where they can win."

Rubio cut in after Donald Trump said senators who didn't give Obama authority to strike Syria bore "responsibility," reminding the audience that the administration had promised a "pinprick" attack against Bashar al-Assad.

"We have zero responsibility, because let's remember what the president said," Rubio said. "He said the attack that he was going to conduct was going to be a pinprick. Well, the United States military was not built to conduct pinprick attacks. If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander-in-chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win. And we are not going to authorize use of force if you're not putting men and women in a position where they can win. And quite frankly, people don't trust this president as commander-in-chief because of that."

Trump made a confusing remark about the "red line" in Syria drawn by Obama in 2013, seeming to think that crossing the line referred to Obama taking military action instead of its actual meaning, which was Assad using chemical weapons against his own people.

"Number one, I wouldn't have drawn the line, but once he drew it, he had no choice but to go across," Trump said. "They do bear some responsibility, but I think he probably didn't do it not for that reason. Somehow, he just doesn't have courage. There's something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force and done something to Assad — if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn't have millions of people displaced all over the world."

Full exchange:

HUGH HEWITT: President Obama drew a red line that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad crossed. President Obama threatened to strike. He did not. His knees buckled. We now have four million refugees. Syria is a living hell, and he turned to the congress for the authority to back him up. You have three senators to your right who said "no." Do they bear responsibility for this refugee crisis, and what would you have done when Bashar Assad crossed that line?

DONALD TRUMP: Number one, I wouldn't have drawn the line, but once he drew it, he had no choice but to go across. They do bear some responsibility, but I think he probably didn't do it not for that reason. Somehow, he just doesn't have courage. There's something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force and done something to Assad — if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn't have millions of people displaced all over the world —

HEWITT: How much responsibility, Mr. Trump, do the senators hold?

TRUMP: I think they had a responsibility, absolutely. I think we have three of them here. I think they had a responsibility, yes.

HEWITT: Senator Rubio?

MARCO RUBIO: We have zero responsibility, because let's remember what the president said. He said the attack that he was going to conduct was going to be a pinprick. Well, the United States military was not built to conduct pinprick attacks. If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander-in-chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win. And we are not going to authorize use of force if you're not putting men and women in a position where they can win. And quite frankly, people don't trust this president as commander-in-chief because of that.