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Congress Will Eventually Vote On Force Against Islamist Militants


Let's hear now from Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Chairman, welcome to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS: Steve, thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: We just had a call from Barbara Lee, Democrat for Congress to vote to authorize force. Should there be a vote on force?

ROGERS: Well, I'd like to see some affirmative action from Congress. I think it would be wholly appropriate to do that. We've got a long way to get - certainly, a lot of issues to get through to get there. But I think, at the end of the day, I think Congress should and I believe that they will give the president that authorization.

INSKEEP: Let's be clear on that because last year, the president was close, it seemed, to striking the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and it appeared that the support from Congress just was not there to authorize that use of force. Are you sure that there would be the votes to authorize force against ISIS in Syria?

ROGERS: And I do and I'll tell you why. There's a very big difference between the government of Assad and what it was doing and what many perceived as a civil war and what ISIS, which is a declared Islamic State, who has declared war on the United States, on Western nations in Europe, who has threatened those nations, who has access to people with Western passports, who are being trained and sent back home.

I mean, this is a threat to the homeland in an immediate way, where the government of Assad was not. And I think that was the disconnect.

Candidly, then the president never really made the case. He didn't make the case to the American people. He didn't make the case to Congress. This is different in the sense that I think he did make the case to the American people. He laid out how dangerous they are and why it's a problem for the homeland and why we need to take action.

INSKEEP: Is the strategy right?

ROGERS: Well, you know, the devil is always in the details. So as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I'll be spending the next few days going through those very important details. I think it is. I had a great conversation with the president yesterday about what this looks like and what his vision of it is and how the Department of Defense and our intelligence services have laid out a way forward on attacking and dismantling ISIS. You know, action is important. So now that the speech is done, I argue that we have a short time to show that the president meant what he said. And that's, I think, what you're going to see hopefully unroll here in the next few days.

INSKEEP: Now, we also heard the president, in Tamara Keith's report, be criticized for saying that we're not going to get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. He's clearly placing limits on what the U.S. is willing to do. There's more action, but not extreme action. I'd just like to know, Congressman, is there a case for a fairly limited approach for not getting too involved - because you have a lot of unsavory people who are actually killing each other in a place where the United States doesn't have a lot of direct friends?

ROGERS: Yeah. I think - similar to like my problem is, this is an organization that is very, very dangerous. And it is a terrorist group with an army, with financing and with time and space to do operations. All of those things spell trouble for United States and our national security. So I would argue we need to be very aggressive, very soon...

INSKEEP: More aggressive than the president's been?

ROGERS: ...but that doesn't mean big boots on the ground.

INSKEEP: But, it doesn't mean boots on the ground, you don't think?

ROGERS: No, I don't think you have to have the 101st Airborne Division there. What the United States can do - and that's why I - my caution to the president yesterday was, don't be too self-limiting. You may need some intelligence officials, you may need Special Forces or special capability soldiers on the battlefield at some point.

Now, that wouldn't look anything like big military units, a division, a brigade, a company even, but it would mean that these soldiers would have to be exposed to some risk in order to leverage the Sunni fighters, Peshmerga, moderate Syrians, all of that, we can leverage and there are certain things that we can bring to them.

INSKEEP: Got to stop you there.

Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, thank you very much.

ROGERS: Hey thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.