National Press Club

Webb mulls White House run, warns against intervention in Syria

September 24, 2014 | By Lorna Aldrich |

Former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., told a National Press Club luncheon on Sept. 23 that he is considering a presidential campaign.

Former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., told a National Press Club luncheon on Sept. 23 that he is considering a presidential campaign.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Former Senator Jim Webb, D-Va, wasn't coy with the audience at a National Press Club Luncheon Sept. 23 -- he said he is considering a presidential campaign.

Webb and his advisers will weigh the possibilities over the fall and early winter.

"We'll take a hard look and get back to you in a few months," he said.

In the meantime, he is urging the United States to be wary of involvement in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war that has helped foment the Islamic State movement that has taken over parts of Iraq.

The country needs a clear statement of national security and foreign policy rather than what Webb called "a tangled mess of situational ethics."

He urged outlining conditions under which the United States would risk its credibility, money and citizens' lives.

First, the president should be able to clearly state the threat, objectives and expected result, Webb said. He added that the country should maintain strategic superiority, exercise self defense and continue to support important allies, while being willing to reject a treaty partner if it acts outside the terms of the treaty.

"Do not occupy territory," Webb warned, because it is militarily and politically dangerous.

He opposed intervention in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion and questions recent steps taken in Libya. Webb quoted a marine's comment on the situation in Beirut 30 years ago -- "Don't get involved in a five-part argument" -- as a general warning about involvement in the Middle East.

"Syria is Lebanon on steroids," he said.

There is no such thing as the president's right to intervene militarily for humanitarian reasons, Webb said. If a situation does not immediately threaten the United States, the president should consult Congress.

The country has been adrift for two decades, since the end of the Cold War, with no clearly defined set of principles to communicate national security objectives, Webb asserted. Over the same period, debates on domestic policies and fairness have become polarized.

"How we resolve these two formidable questions is going to determine what America looks like 10, 20 or even 30 years from now," he said.

Webb addressed issues beyond national security.

"We need to to give our people hope on the issues of economic fairness and social justice," he said.

Since 2009, the stock market has tripled while real income among working people has steadily declined, he said. CEO compensation tied to the stock market has ballooned while wages have stagnated.

Webb proposed reconfiguring the tax code and rebuilding national infrastructure.

"There are people who need work, and there is work to be done," he said.

He cited Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression as an example of presidential leadership in times of economic hardship.

Webb advocated adult education and reform of the criminal justice system.

Webb also suggested an audit of the entire federal government, as a way to help the country return to good governance.