President Obama told congressional leaders on Tuesday that the United States should strike Syria, and that military action would be stronger if endorsed by both the White House and Congress.
“This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said in remarks aimed at a wary Congress and public.
“America should take action,” he said at the outset of his meeting with leaders of Congress. “We will be much more effective, we will be stronger, if we take action together.”
“It is proportional. It is limited. It does not involve boots on the ground,” he continued.
He argued the strike would send a message to Syria and other countries that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. The White House has said more than 1,400 people were killed in a chemical attack last month carried out by the Syria regime.
Obama faces lawmakers in both parties who are reluctant to endorse a strike against Syria. Those lawmakers have questioned whether the strike will make a difference, and whether it could pull the U.S. into a broader conflict.
Obama met Tuesday with leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of the defense, intelligence, and foreign relations panels to make his case.
He thanked Congress for the “soberness and seriousness” with which they were considering his request, and said he was “serious” about getting their input.
The president also seemed to confirm what senior administration officials said Monday night — that the White House was open to rewriting draft language authorizing the use of force in Syria to win votes.
“I would not be going to Congress if I was not serious about consultations and believing that by shaping the authorization to make sure we accomplish the mission, we would be more effective,” Obama said. “So long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad … as long as the authorization allows us to do that, I'm confident we're going to be able to come up with something.”
Obama said that the plan under development by the Joint Chiefs would “degrade Assad's capabilities” while allowing Syria “over time [to] free itself from civil war.”