September 2, 2013

The White House announced Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will testify Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry will also testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (I wonder if the White House has any regrets it did not select a more respected Pentagon chief; it might have helped in cases like this.)

Chuck Hagel (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Chuck Hagel (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Here are some suggestions for questions that should be asked:

Mr. Kerry, you’ve done a magnificent job but with all due respect it seems like you’re not on the same page with the president. Why isn’t he coming before a joint session to make his case?

Mr. Kerry, you spoke about the need to prevent WMD’s and send a message to Tehran. How does a “limited” and “narrow” mission in which we’ve ruled out in advance boots on the ground and would not, as the president has said, tip the balance of power in Syria accomplish this?

Mr. Kerry, why did you not come to us after the first verified instance of WMD use? Had you done so, could we have prevented the deaths of more than 1,400 people?

Mr. Kerry, is Bashar al-Assad “good” for Christians? For Muslims? For any segment of Syria?

Mr. Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey in a July letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that eliminating the threat of WMD’s would take troops on the ground and would need to contend with the regime’s ability to disperse assets. How does that mesh with the president’s promise of no boots on the ground? How can you reconcile the potential for hidden WMD’s with Gen. Dempsey’s suggestion that timing doesn’t matter?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, what assurances did you give our allies in conversations prior to Saturday when the president announced he was going to Congress? Were they taken by surprise by the president’s announcement?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, if the United States does not act in Syria, what consequence may follow in the Middle East?

Mr. Hagel, is the current Pentagon budget large enough to pay for the billions Gen. Dempsey says our Syria action will take? Are we going to pay for this war in the budgeting process?

Mr. Kerry, in your judgment, would earlier support for nonjihadist rebels have short-circuited the war, prevented the influx of jihadis and foreclosed the potential for WMD use? By the time you arrived, hadn’t thousands of jihadis already appeared in Syria, making this problem more difficult?

Mr. Kerry, Iranian forces and Hezbollah troops are already massed in Syria. Should Assad survive, would those forces pose an increased threat to Israel?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, is it feasible to allow Assad to remain in any portion of Syria? If he does would the message be that a leader can use WMD’s and still remain in power?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, so long as Assad is in power is there the potential that WMD’s will be transferred to either his Hezbollah or Iranian allies?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, how concerned are our Arab allies about Assad’s use of WMD’s and the lack of U.S. action to date?

Mr. Hagel and Mr. Kerry, if not military support would you expect diplomatic support for U.S. action from Gulf allies?

Mr. Kerry, you have the highest confidence that a dictator used WMD’s and has more to use; that his regime remains a home and transit point for terrorists and that failure to do something significant would send a horrible message to the Iranians. Would a president of either party in this situation be justified in acting? Is it better to have one or two members of a coalition or, say 40?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.