WASHINGTON — The coming week could determine whether the United States launches military strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. President Barack Obama will make the case for action to a largely skeptical nation with a nationally-televised address Tuesday.
Americans will hear arguments for armed intervention from a president who came to power pledging to wind down military engagements and avoid new ones absent a direct threat to the nation’s safety. Obama will argue that America is, indeed, threatened by Syria’s deadly use of chemical weapons.
“Failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again, that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us. And it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons,” Obama said.
Republican Senator John McCain, who backs the use of force in Syria, heard from constituents who doubt America’s ability to have a positive impact in the Middle East.
“These people are fanatics in their beliefs. They will keep killing people when we leave,” said Domenick Negri, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
McCain says America must keep its word.
“You can imagine the lesson that Iran and other countries take when the president of the most powerful nation in the world says he will take action and does not,” said McCain.
Whether resolutions authorizing the use of force in Syria will pass both houses of Congress is far from certain. President Obama says he wants legislative backing for military strikes, but does not need it to act.
“What we are talking about is not an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground. Any action we take would be limited, both in time and scope, designed to deter the Syrian government from gassing its own people again and degrade its ability to do so,” said Obama.
Last week, a Senate panel approved a resolution on the use of force in Syria. The full Congress returns to work Monday after a five-week recess.