Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday he would not delay Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s nomination to a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Dempsey spelled out what he saw as possible U.S. military options for Syria.
McCain said he was disappointed with Dempsey’s answers but would not hold up a Senate vote on his confirmation.
“The president, I think, has the right to choose the team around him, particularly as far as military advisers are concerned,” McCain told reporters outside the Senate. “But this assessment that General Dempsey gave of how to address the challenges in Syria are beyond anything that any rational military thinker that I know would ever contemplate.”
McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee who is one of the Senate’s most influential voices on military issues, has been an outspoken proponent of military aid for the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
McCain repeatedly questioned Dempsey’s judgment on Syria during the hearing on his renomination on Thursday. He told reporters he would block the nomination until he had more answers from Dempsey on whether the United States should intervene in the conflict.
Dempsey said in a letter released on Monday that U.S. forces could undertake a variety of missions to help Syrian rebels if asked by the White House, from training to establishing no-fly zones or conducting limited attacks on military targets.
However, he warned of the risks of unintended consequences and noted that involvement in Syria would be an act of war that could cost billions of dollars.