WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry hedged when asked whether intervention in Syria could lead to American “boots on the ground,” saying that while neither he nor President Barack Obama wanted that to happen, he was not willing to rule out the option.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, Kerry was asked by committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, if the administration would agree to a prohibition of American boots on the ground as part of a congressional authorization for force.
“It would be preferable not to, not because there is any intention or any plan or any desire whatsoever to have boots on the ground,” Kerry said.
“But, in the event that Syria imploded, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of” someone who should not have chemical weapons, “then clearly in the interest of our allies … to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements,” Kerry said later. “I don’t want to take that off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States.”
Kerry was later challenged on that response by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the committee, who chided that, “I didn’t find that a very appropriate response.”
In response, Kerry clarified: “There will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war.”