U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii offered different reactions to President Barack Obama’s speech tonight on addressing an Islamic threat in Iraq and Syria.

Hanabusa warned that changes to the U.S. mission in the region could have “unintended consequences,” while Schatz said the U.S. must address the threat will the help of allies.

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and US Sen. Brian Schatz try not to look at each other moments before airtime of their televised debate in the KITV studio on July 7, 2014.

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Brian Schatz in the KITV studio on July 7.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Here are excerpts from Hanabusa’s remarks via a press release from her office:

“I share our nation’s horror at the actions of ISIL and our resolve to ensure the safety of Americans. However, I am deeply concerned that our ever-increasing commitment to an unclear strategy in the Middle East is again pulling our nation into a long-term involvement that will cost us far too much in resources and the lives of young Americans.

 “The President’s speech lacked details, such as who will be included in the coalition supporting our efforts, and what contributions members will make. Nor did he set forth what he will present to the UN Security Council later this month, where we are likely to face resistance from China and Russia. I am concerned that we are again proceeding without a clearly defined strategy, and without providing adequate time to prepare for our actions. … 

“Today the President also announced that we will arm unknown fighters in Syria while hoping and assuming they will further our interests. We need to acknowledge the reality that innocent civilians or our own troops could very well be the ones looking down the barrels of those weapons in the future. We saw it in Afghanistan and we are seeing it in Iraq. …

 “The President has asked our nation to face these threats with ‘strength and resolve.’ I believe Congress must also show strength and resolve in thoroughly reviewing and weighing the President’s request for further authorization and funding to pursue his current strategy, to ensure, for one, that this strategy will not only be effective in addressing the threats he outlined, but also that it will not be yet another way-station in an ongoing escalation of our nation’s involvement and commitments in the region. Without these assurances, I will not support authorization.”

Here are excerpts from Schatz’s remarks via a press release from his office:

“Compared to other terrorist groups in the region, this extremist Army is a unique threat to U.S. interests in and outside of the Middle East. It holds territory in Iraq and Syria where it trains with impunity; it uses extraordinary brutality to exert influence over local populations; and it uses force to try to redraw borders in an attempt to create an Islamic state. The United States must address this threat, but it cannot do so alone.  We must coordinate with NATO allies and partners in the region to craft a deliberate, multilateral strategy to disrupt, degrade, and ultimately defeat ISIS.

“U.S. military power alone is not the answer to defeating ISIS, but, if used narrowly and strategically, it can help create the space for political leaders in the region to reconcile the deep-seated sectarian divisions that have aided ISIS’s rise.  I oppose putting U.S. combat boots on the ground. …

“Regardless of whether or not the Administration has sufficient authority under the law to go after ISIS, it is prudent for the President to seek additional authorities from Congress to clarify the scope of the mission, ensure sufficient funds to support the effort, and reassure the American people that the United States will not become entangled in another costly war in the Middle East.”

Schatz defeated Hanabusa narrowly in the Democratic Senate primary last month. The two clashed during the campaign on foreign policy in the Middle East.

About the Author