“I’d like to know an answer rather than a filibuster. I have 6 minutes and 10 seconds.” And with that start to a testy exchange, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has held up the renomination of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey for his second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the administration’s policy (or lack of) on Syria. McCain and others on the Senate Armed Services Committee have pressed for “significant” military action versus “limited” action in Syria’s war, but Dempsey insisted that’s a decision for the president.
More of the Dempsey-McCain exchange (brief clip worth watching here):
McCain: Do you believe the continued costs and risks of our inaction in Syria are now worse for our national security interests than the costs and risks associated with limited military action? … I’d like to know an answer rather than a filibuster. I have six minutes and 10 seconds.
Dempsey: I assure you, Senator, I won’t filibuster. This is a regional issue, so I would say that the issue in Syria is at—we are at greater risk because of the emergence of violent extremist organizations, as is Iraq.
McCain: You’re not answering the question, General.
Dempsey: Yes, sir.
McCain: Do you believe the continued costs and risks of our inaction in Syria are now worse for our national security interests than the costs and risks associated with limited military action?
Dempsey: With all due respect, Senator, you’re asking me to agree that we’ve been inactive, and we have not been inactive.
McCain: We have not been inactive.
Dempsey: That’s correct.
McCain: This again gives validity to my concern, because obviously we may have not been inactive, but any observer knows that Bashar Assad is prevailing on the battlefield. A hundred thousand people have been killed. Hezbollah is there. Russians are there. And the situation is much more dire than it was two years ago, when you and Admiral [James] Winnefeld came to office. And so your answer is that we haven't been inactive.
In other Pentagon news, Combat Air Force units resumed flying after being grounded for months by sequestration budget cuts.
Iran may join Zimbabwe as the only countries on the World Bank’s non-performing list, as it is more than six months overdue on loan repayments and sinking economically in the face of international sanctions and oppressive government.
Portraits of Russia’s leading opposition figures, an “anti-Putin Brigade,” are on exhibit in New York. Here’s a compelling montage of 16 with descriptions of their work.
Attacks on Christians living in Sinai have escalated since Mohamed Morsi’s ouster as Egypt’s president, including two “grisly killings” in the lawless but strategic area between Egypt and Israel.
A Kazakhstan pastor has been jailed and charged with having a “psychological influence” on his church congregation and using a “hallucinogenic drink” during communion. Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev could be sentenced to 3-7 years under a new, Soviet-era, anti-religion law in the former Soviet republic. Observers say authorities are particularly targeting Muslims who have converted to Christianity, like Kashkumbaev.
I’m reading (and recommending): The third volume of the Winston Churchill biography begun by the late William Manchester, The Last Lion, now completed by Paul Reid; and Guardian Angel, an e-memoir by former Guardian journalist and editor Melanie Phillips, the story of her journey from left to right.