September 10th, 2013
08:00 PM ET
7 months ago

Santorum: The U.S. has no national security interest in Syria

(CNN) - Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who previously favored potential military strikes in Syria, forcefully argued Tuesday on CNN's "Crossfire" the United States has no reason to take military action in the war-torn country.

"The bottom line here is we have no national security interest," the 2012 GOP presidential candidate said, just hours before President Barack Obama is set to explain in a televised address the stakes for the United States in Syria.

Santorum, who hasn't ruled out another run for president in 2016, co-authored the Syria Accountability Act, a law passed in 2003 that sought to use economic sanctions to end support for terrorism in Syria and the country's alleged collection of weapons of mass destruction.

He said he favored possible military action last year but now argues it's too late, arguing the Syrian regime has grown stronger while the opposition force has seen an increase in extremist elements.

Van Jones, co-host of "Crossfire," pointed to disturbing videos of adults and children dying from an August 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, and asked why those shocking images shouldn't fall under U.S. interests.

"Then we should be in Darfur," Santorum replied. "Then we should be in 50 other countries around the world."

"We have no moral obligation to use military force when it comes to a humanitarian situation," he added.

For his part, President Barack Obama says the security interests lie in the potential for Syria's chemical weapons to get into the wrong hands and be used against U.S. troops. In an interview Monday with CNN, Obama said international norms that ban chemical weapons are good because they shield U.S. troops and innocent people around the world.

"It's something that protects women and children and civilians, because these weapons by definition are indiscriminate. They don't just target somebody in uniform," he said.

But Santorum argued the U.S. has no security interest when the two sides of the conflict "are both enemies of the United States," pointing to Al Qaeda elements in the Syrian opposition, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah on the other side.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, on the other hand, said he supports military action and wished the president was "not pausing" as the Obama administration now seeks a new Russian proposal that could lead to a diplomatic solution.

"I think President Obama made the right, moral decision when he drew the red line and then when he said, after we had proof that chemical weapons were used to kill almost 1,500 innocents, including 426 children by Assad in Syria, that he was going to take military action," the former senator from Connecticut said. "I was really surprised and disappointed when he decided to toss it to Congress."

"He was right," he continued. "He had the legal authority to do it himself. I wish he had done it. If he had, I think the American people would have been happy now."


Filed under: Crossfire • Joe Lieberman • Rick Santorum • Syria
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Santorum , wait till it spills over into Israel , then you will be all for blowing Syria off the map .

    Jan 19, 2012 – Santorum does not hide his ultraconservative views when it comes to ... expressed outright support for U.S. military action against Iran .
    Feb 23, 2012 – Rick Santorum, arguably the new frontrunner, described Syria as a “puppet ... that military action is necessary to stop a nuclear-armed Iran.

    The great thing about the internet , it's shows what hypocrites and flip floppers most professional politicians are.

    September 10, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. John

    Hilarious how the "previously GOP patriotic, military serving, loyalist have now become pacifivists when it comes to Syria.....Interesting to note the prior military participation of GOP members....with the exception of McCain, who is a "tweener", the entire GOP congressional representation is a pack of draft dodging, military evading, you go, I can't/won't/ bunch of placivists (oowards?) while the administration henchmen Kerry, Hagel, etc. who served are denigrated for some reason that the "hemorrhoid excuse draft dodger" Limbaugh screams of his patriotism, despite his life long coardice and drug abuse.

    September 10, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  3. G

    why are you asking formers any thing,we all know where rick and joe stand ,they both want to protect isreal at all cost .

    September 10, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  4. boungiorno

    your absolutely right we have no business in Syria, is that clear or do you nef a picture drawn

    September 10, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. blutopie

    Obama has done a GREAT SERVICE to the US by taking the US military OUT OF THE HANDS OF ISRAEL AND AIPAC

    Modern AIPAC is dead – as Bret Stephens frets about today in the Wall Street Journal:

    ‘In the meantime, Republicans should ponder what their own political posturing on Syria might mean for the future. When a Republican president, faced with a Democratic House, feels compelled to take action against some other rogue regime, will they rue their past insistence on congressional approval?’

    Boo hoo – with Israel and her Neocons no longer capable of bum rushing the US into war with Iran – because it would be overwhelmingly refused by the American people and US House (like this strike on Syria) – AIPAC’s raison d’etre for the last 10 yrs has been destroyed

    Is too much to say that the American Constitution has come to the rescue of the Republic, in the most clearest sense possible, that Israel and AIPAC will no longer be able to dictate our wars because they will have to go thru the American people and US House, first?

    Has Obama, perhaps even half unwittingly, made another Cheney-Neocon bum rush of the US into a war with Iraq or Iran impossible? What a wonderful world....

    September 10, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    Does this idiot know Al Queda is sponsoring Syria with Russia back up?????

    September 10, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  7. Steve Metz

    I'm trying to tease out the logic that would lead Santorum, who was adamant that US national interests required the invasion of Iraq, to contend the US has no national interests in Syria. The only thing I can come up with is that pure partisan ideology trumps the national interest for him–he's against it because Obama is for it.

    September 10, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    This is a very serious matter. One we hope will end without confrontation. Santorum is close to being the last
    person most of us want to hear from.
    If this is an example of Crossfire's choice of guests, I'm glad I decided not to watch.

    September 10, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. MaryM

    Santorum is Wrong as usual. He is such a fake Christian

    September 10, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  10. LoboLoco

    Doesn't the dude look like a ferret, he has the politics of a gut worm.

    September 10, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  11. Wake up People!

    Says the unemployed EX Senator.....

    September 10, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. Wake up People!

    I tell you if President Obama came out in favor of breathing many people would croak that same day.

    September 10, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  13. Charles Hurst-Author

    Santorum is correct. We have no moral grounds to go into other countries' civil wars, especially in the Middle East.

    1) Why didn't we go to Darfur? To Rwanda? Because it doesn't interest us. Many more were murdered there. And yes, I felt the same toward Iraq. Bush doesn't get off the hook either with the knee jerk "humanitarian" reason.

    2) WMDs, chemical weapons etc etc. Please. We don't even secure our own borders. We do that, rebuild the meanest CIA that doesn't follow political correctness to go after terrorists and quit censoring military commanders who condemn the terrorist for the vile inhuman being he is then we can talk about why we need to go into another country in their civil war supporting those who may indeed be our own enemy. Again, same point in Iraq. We went to Iraq to "stabilize the Middle East." Remember? That worked out well, didn't it. Real stable area. Egypt, Libya and now Syria. So let's go use the military again to attempt to solve a problem we cannot.

    3) We are out of money. So let's ignite something that will completely break our already fragile economy.

    I have written extensively about how America is coming to an end as we know it in my fiction. It is becoming more of a reality everyday with more insanity and anti reason from our own government. It will be our own high office that ends us as a nation. And I don't think it matters which side sits in the high chamber.

    Charles Hurst, Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat Armageddon.

    September 10, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. What's in that tea anyway?

    Thank You President Sanitorum! We needed to hear that you were for it before you were against it....That's why you are President today...congrats on standing by your position and Tea Party principles....serious sarcasm.

    September 10, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  15. What's in that tea anyway?

    Good job there Ricky on the Monday morning quarterbacking.....The entire country is now sure why they decided not to ride your clown car into the WH

    September 10, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  16. just saying

    our only national security interest in syria is to make sure assad kills as many radical jihadis as he can. he is saving us the expense of doing it. so of course obama wants to stop assad and in turn help the jihadis. look what obama has done in egypt and libya! two other countries in total chaos, a jihadis dream. and now obama wants to give them a third country, syria.

    September 10, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  17. Tampa Tim

    As a Christian, where is Santorum's outrage against children being gassed? Certainly a fetus was killed. Rick proves he is not ready to lead the most powerful nation in the world.

    September 10, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  18. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    This religious goof supports asseds right to gas his own children,so just go home and shut up. Just another GOP teaparty loser!!!!

    September 10, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  19. Liz the First

    Spoken like a true 'christian.' who cares if the rest of the world kills each other? they're not Americans. so much for being pro-'life!'

    September 10, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  20. Woman In California

    "We have no moral obligation to use military force when it comes to a humanitarian situation," he added.

    How in the world do these guys live with themselves? What "moral obligation" did we have in Iraq? How does he justify the deaths and injuries to thousands of Americans because-well, Bush "thought" there were WMD? There's no limit to how low this scumbag will go for a few votes and I can't wait until he's in the funnies instead of on the Ticker.

    September 10, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  21. rs

    What a clown- it's as if Republicans don't understand video recording. Santorum et all were all up to attack Syria as recently as December, and puffing their chests saying "Obama was leading from behind". It's all on tape boys. So what is it? A complete mental break- you know, the inability to hold an idea or opinion for more than a week or two; or, is this just further proof that you guts WILL ALWAYS do the opposite of the President?
    Either way- pretty pathetic. Go home write some more anti-abotion bill, or take away some more Americans' voting rights. It's all you're good at.

    September 10, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    Well, Ricky, if you listened to the President's speech, you would understand we DO have a national security interest in Syria.

    BTW, how to you reconcile your supposed Christian faith and supposed "pro-life" stance with letting go unanswered the gassing of children?

    * crickets *

    September 11, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  23. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    So typical. They were for it before they were agin it. Can't wait to see the GOBP stuff Jeb Bush down the tea potty's throats Mitt the twit style.

    September 11, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  24. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    This GOP teaparty loser and religious freek needs to disappear along with the rest of the teaparty failures like Cruz Rubio and lee the other teaparty garbage from Utah .who needs these failures in OUR government ????

    September 11, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |