Federal lawmakers are gearing up for a vote on a resolution that would authorize U.S. military action in Syria. Former Gov. James Florio discussed the issue with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider.
Several New Jersey elected officials have said they’re not ready to support a measure authorizing force. “Nobody’s enthusiastic about going to war, going into something that they really don’t know anything about,” Florio said.
He said that he is troubled by ultimatums and drawing red lines. “The irony of course is the people who will benefit from the actions we take are gonna have stability in the Middle East standing on the sidelines, not supporting what the president wants to do,” he added.
Florio said the Arab League, Saudi Arabia and China all have greater interests in the Middle East than the U.S. “We’re trying to bring stability to that area and they just stand and sort of offer to hold the coat and don’t do anything,” he said.
President Barack Obama has been been laying out his case for lawmakers and the American public. Florio predicts the president will be able to successfully persuade officials to support his plan. “Even people who are reluctant will go along just because they don’t want to see the country suffer on this whole question of credibility,” he said.
Florio said he supports Obama and believes he does a very good job in most areas. “The one failing I think is from time to time he tries to treat people reasonably who are unreasonable — whether it be people in Washington or people in countries around the world. He’s gotta be a little tougher in terms of negotiating the leverage so that we’re not constantly being called upon to unilaterally take steps,” he said. “Unilateralism was a deficiency of the last administration. We should be much more multi-lateral in our efforts.”
Florio has been critical of the war in Iraq, but said he’s confident that Obama won’t repeat those mistakes. “The previous situation was in Iraq, we got involved and we just got more and more involved and we didn’t think through with the consequences of it,” Florio said. “I’m troubled always by the opportunities for something to escalate to something beyond. But I have sufficient confidence in the instincts of the president not to allow that to happen.”
Some have said that under Obama, the country has gotten weaker and has lost is superpower stature. Florio said the world has changed. “After World War II, clearly we were the dominant factor in the whole world. After the Soviet Union collapsed, we were the only superpower. Now things are starting to change. And we’re gonna have to learn how to be much more multi-lateral, much more collaborative with other people,” he said. “We ought to do that now from a position of strength that we have to be prepared for the future.”
Florio said other nations are growing in terms of their economy and military. “We’ll have to learn to be more collaborative. We should do that from a position of strength. We should do that with a lot of logic and rationality,” he said.