WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said Thursday the violent crackdown by Bashar Assad's regime in Syria should not be tolerated, but the world must respond "in a responsible way."
Kerry said there are stark differences between the situation in Syria and in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, at the time the United States and others intervened, and that Assad has stronger air defenses. Asked about U.S. intervention, the Democrat said: "Is that the right thing to do tomorrow or the next day? I think not," he said in a nationally broadcast interview.
Kerry told CBS television's "This Morning" show that Washington "can't just jump up some morning and say, 'Let's go and drop some bombs on Syrian tanks.' " The senator also said he believes Russia and China gave Assad "a kind of get-out-of-jail card" when the two countries vetoed a U.N. effort to force him out.
Kerry's Senate colleague, Republican John McCain, has called for the United States to arm the Syrian opposition forces and lead an international coalition with airstrikes against Assad's regime to end the slaughter. But that proposal has drawn little support in Congress, the Obama administration or among the Republican presidential candidates.
Both Kerry and McCain ran unsucessfully for the presidency.
White House hopeful Mitt Romney, who has been endorsed by McCain, said this week that he was not prepared to support military action against Syria. Newt Gingrich opposes sending U.S. troops or equipment to Syria, arguing that "expanding our military activity into Syria would be stretching our capacity in the Middle East," according to spokesman R.C. Hammond.
Rick Santorum favors providing military equipment to the Syrian people but stopped short of backing airstrikes. "As far as direct support — and Senator McCain's talking about air support — I'm not quite prepared to go there at this point in time," Santorum said this week.
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a separate interview that the decision by Russia and China is "costing them mightily" in terms of reputations in the international community.
"We're all outraged" by what's happening in Syria, she said. But Rice said the distinction between the situation in Syria and in Libya is that "there's not the clear-cut unified opposition (in Syria) that controls a clear piece of territory."
In an interview on MSBNC, Rice said the United States is trying "to ramp up, to the extent possible, economic pressure on President Assad."
"The best answer to this is not more arms. It's not air strikes against a very complex and capable air defense," she said, adding that "we don't think it's appropriate to put American boots on the ground."