Senate's Syria motion does not preclude 'mission creep'

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez, left, confers with committee member Sen. Barbara Boxer, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, 3 September, 2013. Senators Robert Menendez and Barbara Boxer confer during a hearing on intervention in Syria

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will probably win the race to come up with the first resolution on Syria from Congress. Its two leading Democratic and Republican members have agreed a wording which binds the president's hands.

It limits military action to 60 days and rules out combat troops on the ground. President Barack Obama may not be too unhappy with it. It uses his own words, such as "tailored" and "limited" action.

No-one to whom I've spoken thought action would last two months, and President Obama and his generals don't want boots on the ground.

But in his testimony, Secretary of State John Kerry demonstrated to some who are cautious about action why this sort of language is necessary. He mused that if Syria imploded, special forces might have to go in and secure chemical weapons.

The language of the draft doesn't forbid that, but it does show mission creep is possible. I've never understood myself why securing the chemical weapons is not America's main priority.

But that's beside the point. If the president is not unhappy with this first motion, some who want deeper and more serious involvement, aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, may be.

There's still a lot of reluctance on Capitol Hill. Many doubts are backed up by the mood in America. A new poll indicates a big majority against action.

However cautious the senators' motion, they would still be authorising something the American public don't want to happen.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

More on This Story

Features & Analysis

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa

  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine

  • People take part in an egg-cracking contest in the village of Mokrin, 120km (75 miles) north of Belgrade, Serbia on 20 April 2014In pictures

    Images from around the world as Christians mark Easter Sunday

  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world


  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.