News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 7, 2013

Cautionary tale: Senator Coats discusses action in Syria, health care

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind, said Friday he thinks a vote in the Senate on whether or not to use military force in Syria will happen next week.

However, Coats, in a stopover Friday in Terre Haute and at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, said he does not think the president has yet made a convincing case to the American People.

President Barack Obama is slated to address the nation Tuesday as Congress prepares to vote on a resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons.

“This is a very difficult situation that we have to think through very, very carefully. There are real consequences depending on whatever decision is made,” Coats said at The Woods.

“I am looking at this very closely. I am on the [Senate] Intelligence Committee, every day pouring over information. I want to make the right decision. I do think the president has yet to make the case for what he wants to do and what the goal is,” Coats said.

“And also the American people need to know what the risks are, depending on what choice is made,” he said. “We need this debate and hopefully we will make the right choice.”

“I want to know what the goal is. Simply to fire a few missiles to send a message — what kind of message does that send, what kind of implication does that have?” Coats said.

“I want to be careful that we do not end up getting engaged in yet another Middle Eastern war. We have been in a decade or more of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have not resulted in the results that we want,” Coats said.

“What’s going on in the Middle East right now, there are a lot of things that we cannot determine the destiny of the result and so therefore, I want to be very careful. I don’t want to put young men and women, Americans in uniforms, back into another war in the Middle East,” Coats said.

“I want to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t do that,” Coats said.

In a discussion Friday before an editorial board of the Tribune-Star, Coats said that basing military action “all on shoring up your credibility after you maybe slipped and shouldn’t have said ‘red line’ or whatever, is not a basis for the kind of action that could potentially result in some serious consequences,” Coats said.

He quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, saying that when a nation takes an act of war, whatever that nation expect the end result to be, “you better prepare for some unexpected hurricanes and floods.”

Coats said the Middle East has internal strife and civil war over control, referring to Egypt and Syria. “There is no sharp line between the good guys and the bad guys here. There is no guarantee that success of the opposition will lead a Syria which puts the Syrian people in a safer position than they are now,” Coats said.

“You have to weigh the consequences of who you support or who you don’t support, or who you depose, or who you give weapons to or you don’t give weapons to because, I think, what we have learned from what has happened here is that if you take sides and your side wins, they suddenly turn to you and they don’t say thank-you. They say thanks for the weapons,” Coats said. “You might see them coming back at you.”

“I think we need to learn some lessons from the war in Iraq, over a decade, and from the situation that now exits there,” Coats said, “which is not the result that we had hoped for, and what has taken place in Afghanistan over 12 years. The situation there is not what we had hoped for despite all the loss of blood and treasure,” Coats said.

“So before we take a risk of engaging in another conflict in the MIddle East, which has a lot of civil war, internal conflicts — and we can’t solve those problems — we need to think this through very carefully before we pull that trigger,” Coats said.

n At SMWC, Coats met with about 30 business people to learn what they think are problems for business. Coats said business people say they are concerned for national security, as well as “taxes, regulation and government intrusion” into business.

“The medical device industry has  been socked with 2.3 percent tax on gross sales, not on profit,” Coats said. “So even if they lose money, they have to pay money back to the government. That has devastating impact on Indiana’s medical device industry, which employs a lot of people. We are trying to get that repealed,” Coats said.

n On health care, Coats said he is introducing legislation to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act for a year. Coats said he does not support a shutdown of government.

“It does not achieve the goal, and we have been through that once. In this fragile economy, right now, another blow to the economy with a government shutdown” would hurt the country, he said.

“I have called for a one-year delay in everything. The president has already delayed the employer mandate,” Coats said. “I think rather than implementation we ought to have a year delay and ought to put it before the American people.”

Coats said in 2012 people were not aware of the financial implications as they are now.

“Let the 2014 election, essentially, be a referendum on it,” Coats said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.