President Barack Obama vowed Friday to undertake a “limited, narrow” response to Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack and warned he would not be “paralyzed” by his desire to rally elusive international support.
Obama’s remarks came after Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the most detailed U.S. case yet that Bashar Assad’s regime massacred more than 1,400 people last week with chemical weapons.
“We are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act,” the president said as he hosted Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
“I have not made any decisions” about Washington’s precise response, he said, but “we’re not considering any open-ended commitment” or sending troops into Syria.
Obama said in a CNN interview last week that ordering military action without a United Nations mandate would raise questions about whether such an operation were legal.
And a growing chorus of lawmakers is saying that the president needs to get explicit congressional authorization before going to war.
The president addressed both issues and left absolutely no doubt that he does not believe he needs either body’s green light.
“We are confident that we can provide Congress all the information they can get, all the input that they need,” he said. “And we can have serious conversations with our allies and our friends around the world about this.”
“But, ultimately, we don’t want the world to be paralyzed,” he said. “A lot of people think something should be done, but nobody wants to do it."
Russia, backed by China, has blocked every U.S attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution that might set the stage for intervention in Syria.
The president acknowledged that he and other Americans are “war-weary” and diagnosed “a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq.”
But “it’s important for us to recognize that when over a thousand people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99 percent of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we’re sending a signal,” he said. “That is a danger to our national security.”
And, Obama said, “The American people understandably want us to be focused on the business of rebuilding our economy here and putting people back to work — and I assure you nobody ends up being more war-weary than me.”
But he stressed that “this kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well-established international norms against the use of chemical weapons by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region, like Israel and Turkey and Jordan, and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us.”