Posted at: 08/29/2013 11:40 PM
| Updated at: 08/30/2013 9:47 AM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - Congressmen Paul Tonko and Chris Gibson usually stand on opposite sides of the political aisle. Now they have joined together, both opposed to American military action in Syria, despite what a well-respected area college professor has to say.
"At this point, I would not be in favor of a missile launch," Tonko (D - Amsterdam) said Thursday afternoon.
Tonko condemns chemical warfare as horrific and immoral, but still he's turning thumbs down to a U.S. mission intended to punish the Syrian regime.
"There are ways to punish without going to an air attack and boots on the ground," he said. "I still hope diplomacy can be the call of action."
At the end of his 29-year military career, Gibson (R - Kinderhook) served as a brigade commander for the 82nd Airborne in Iraq. Both he and Tonko also believe Congress needs to play a larger role in the crucial decision.
"Will it make a positive difference?" Gibson asked rhetorically. "Will we help resolve the civil war there? I don't believe military action will help. In fact, based on my experience, my judgment, I believe it's going to make it worse."
"I have great respect for Congressman Gibson and Congressman Tonko," said Dr. Stephen Berk, a history professor at Union College in Schenectady, "but I think they are dead wrong."
Berk says chemical warfare can not be allowed to happen in the 21st century.
"This is a line that has been crossed that is a genocidal weapon, a weapon of mass destruction," Berk said. "If we do not act, it'll be a terrible signal to both (Syrian President Bashar) Assad and to others."
Berk says if Americans strike Syria, there'd likely be retaliation against Israel, which is something Israelis too are expecting, as evidenced by a run on gas masks in Tel Aviv and other cities.
"The deaths of so many from chemical weapons is appalling," Sen. Charles Schumer (D - NY) said.
"A limited action to knock out Assad's capability of delivering chemical weapons in the future could be appropriate, but we have to be very careful not to let our involvement escalate," New York's senior senator added.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY) labels chemical warfare "a heinous and despicable act that cannot be ignored."
Gillibrand says she expects the Administration will "work with an international coalition to act with a limited, tactical response to make it clear to Bashar al-Assad that this behavior is unacceptable."
"Sometimes you have to act, as difficult as it may be," Berk asserted. "The price that you pay by not acting is much greater down the line as unfortunately we are learning now."
Berk says he thinks it's outrageous that more people aren't up in arms over the use of chemical weapons. He also believes the threats made against Israel by Syrians, Iranians and Hezbollah are equally outrageous given that Israel has nothing to do with the Syrian civil war.