URBANA — The Obama administration and the United Nations share part of the blame for the suspected chemical attacks in Syria, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said Thursday.
"I think the president needs to explain to the American people why he wants to engage in Syria, and why the U.N. and other global entities that are supposed to intervene in situations like this aren't doing their job," Davis told reporters after a presentation to an economic development forum at the Urbana Holiday Inn. "The president's got a Nobel Peace Prize. I thought he was going to be the guy who was going to bring the entire world together. We haven't seen that out of him, and I'd like to see him finally get some foreign policy chops instead of talking about it."
Davis said Obama should explain to the American people his reasons for responding to the alleged chemical attacks, and should get congressional approval before taking any military action.
"I want to know what the president's end game is, and I also want him to have to come to explain to not only Congress but explain to the American people what kind of engagement he's looking at," the freshman congressman said.
Asked if he would support a missile strike on Syria, he said, "I'm going to support whatever is offered after the evidence and the explanation to the American public as to the reasons why we would need a strike."
When asked what he would have done if he were president, Davis said he would have pushed the U.N. "to do something a little more. If their rules wouldn't allow us to stop a genocidal maniac like (Syrian President Bashar Assad), then what good are they, and what do we need to do to change how they operate in the future? It's frustrating when everyone decides that something is bad and it takes 100,000 innocent people to be killed for an (international) organization to begin an investigation."
The suspected chemical weapons attacks took place Aug. 21 in suburbs east and west of Damascus. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders has said the strikes killed 355 people. Others have put the death toll as high as 1,300.
Davis said he believes the Obama administration needs to become more assertive in its foreign policy.
"It's disastrous for the Middle East to allow someone like Assad to basically kill his own people at will. That frustrates me as a policymaker, and I wish the administration would be more of a leader in foreign policy, and I think some of the foreign policy decisions they've made in the past allowed this type of behavior worldwide because I do believe that people look at us as more weak than we were in the past."
"The bottom line," Davis said, "is if I were Obama, I would have put more pressure on them to actually ensure that they're doing the job that they say they're going to do instead of thinking that they're actually making progress."