By Rudolph Bell, Greenville News
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is calling for a limited U.S. military strike against Syria in the wake of a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds, including women and children, but three Republicans and one Democrat challenging him for re-election disagree.
GOP challengers Richard Cash, Lee Bright and Nancy Mace all said it would be a mistake for the United States to get involved, as did Democrat Jay Stamper.
Cash, a Powdersville businessman, said he doesn't think President Obama or Graham have made a compelling case that an attack on Syria is in the U.S. national interest.
Obama "feels compelled to do something because he drew a red line and it's been crossed and now his credibility has been called into question," Cash said. "I don't know that all adds up to strategic coherence. It's just something I think he feels trapped into doing."
Bright, a state senator from Roebuck, said any U.S. involvement would likely turn into another protracted engagement, "and the best thing we can do is worry about our own country and what's happening here and our rights and liberties that are under assault daily."
Mace, a public affairs consultant from Charleston and self-described "Army brat," said the U.S. has few good options.
"Who are we supposed to side with in Syria? Assad's murderous regime or al Qaida?" she said in a statement.
Stamper, a nonprofit executive from Columbia, said cornering Assad "would make it more likely - not less - that he would resort to using chemical weapons out of desperation."
For his part, the Republican Graham said the time has come for "decisive actions."
"Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad's air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground," South Carolina's senior senator said.
He also called for a large-scale effort to train and equip "moderate, vetted elements of the Syrian opposition."
"It is not in our national security interest for this conflict to grind on, as some suggest," Graham said. "To the contrary, as we have clearly seen, the longer the conflict in Syria goes on, the worse and worse it gets and the more it spreads throughout the region."