Whatever one thinks of the president’s decision to seek authorization for military force in Syria, one thing is clear: The hearings that took place on Capitol Hill this week have been among the most intelligent we have seen in years. For the most part, senators from both sides of the aisle asked thoughtful questions and proclaimed support and skepticism based on their analysis of the facts rather than partisan battle lines.
Although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing had the feel of a family reunion — Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are both former senators making their case to friends and former colleagues — it was far from a rubber-stamp session. Senators were polite, and even jovial, but raised thorny issues: What would the Obama administration do if Syrian President Bashar Assad were to retaliate against a US strike by launching another chemical attack on his own people? How would Russia, a strong ally of Assad, respond to a US strike on Damascus? Is a limited strike worth the effort?