‘The days of leading from behind are over:’ Rep. Comstock returns from the Middle East
“It was certainly an eventful week,” Comstock (R), who represents all of Loudoun County, said in an interview with the Times-Mirror Friday. “It really brought home a lot of the big issues.”
On the day Comstock left for the trip, the U.S. struck a strategic target in Syria, an air base used to transport weapons. Three days later Comstock was in Egypt as two bombs in separate cities erupted in Christian churches, killing nearly 50. Then as the congresswoman was returning home, American forces dropped the MOAB – the U.S.'s largest non-nuclear bomb – on an Islamic State base in Afghanistan.
“Certainly the bombing of the Coptic churches highlighted the difficulties of Christian minorities in these countries, and how we need to be a force for good and making sure everything is done on that front,” she said.
On the strikes and U.S. foreign policy more generally, Comstock said the days of America “leading from behind” are over. She said she agreed with the strikes in Syria and the MOAB bomb in Afghanistan, and she believes the president has the authority to launch those strikes without congressional approval – something lawmakers on both sides have contested.
“I think they were within bounds,” Comstock said. “We certainly can have those discussions, but I do believe in having a commander-in-chief and having him be able to work with our military to make those strategic decisions … I do believe in a strong executive and a strong commander-in-chief.”
The congresswoman said, in speaking with military professionals, civilian Americans and foreign residents, “there's a sense that the U.S. is going to be more engaged.”
“The days of leading from behind are over,” she repeated. “ … I've always felt this. A world where the United States isn't the strongest country and military force is a dangerous world. Nowhere is that more the case than in the Middle East, and that is how these countries feel. They want a strong U.S. engaged in the region and working with them and also understanding the difficulties and the challenges they face.”
The congresswoman visited refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, where she said she saw both the dire conditions of Syria's displaced population and the hope and optimism in the eyes of suffering families and children.
“You see the multiple, sheer challenges that they have to deal with … and you realize the importance of the U.S. role and having to continue to help them,” she said, adding she was proud “of the remarkable work” both the U.S. and United Nations is doing to provide relief for the millions displaced during the Syrian Civil War.
The U.S. has pledged nearly $6 billion in humanitarian aid to those affected by the Syrian Civil War since it began in 2011, according to the State Department.
“The strength of these people. These were very strong, resilient people,” the congresswoman said. “It was really remarkable how they were coping. The community was taking care of each other – obviously with our help … everyone has lost a family member or friend.”
Comstock said “there is nothing we are doing out there that we need to do less of.”
“The footprint of ISIS is shrinking in that region,” she said. “ … It's going to be, in our lifetime, an ongoing effort – that we have to isolate and shrink [the spread of terrorism] and not just manage it.”
The congresswoman said terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida are “in for the long haul – that's how they think.” She said the strength of the U.S. is its role in bringing together coalitions and showing resolve to refugees and other citizens in the Middle East -- showing them they “aren't going to be left alone to these monsters.”
“The world community is going to engage,” she said.
The bipartisan delegation included Comstock, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Congressman Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.).
While she was away, Comstock's opponents continued their calls for the congresswoman to hold an in-person, traditional town hall. The "Dump Comstock" group last Monday unveiled a highway billboard calling for the lawmaker to hold a town hall.
Comstock said she believes the approach she has taken – holding tele-town halls and meeting with small groups at her office – is a more effective means of communicating, especially on the issue of health care.
“Me and my staff meet with hundreds of people every week to talk about these issues,” Comstock said. “We reach a lot more in a tele-town hall … I'm ever present in the district. We've gone to businesses, we've gone to schools, we've gone to hospitals and medical facilities, and I have back-and-forth and dialogue.”
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