Obama Will Address the Nation About Syria on Tuesday. So, What Will He Say?

The 6 points Obama will make to the American people next week.

President Obama addressed the Syrian crisis during a news conference at the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Sept. 6, 2013, 6:37 a.m.

As a grow­ing num­ber of law­makers speak out against mil­it­ary ac­tion in Syr­ia, Pres­id­ent Obama will ad­dress the na­tion on Tues­day to lay out his ar­gu­ments for strik­ing the As­sad re­gime over its chem­ic­al-weapons use.

While Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and oth­er ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have at­temp­ted to con­vince mem­bers of Con­gress in the last week that the ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion is to give the pres­id­ent the au­thor­ity to use lim­ited air­strikes. But Obama has faced cri­ti­cism not only from Re­pub­lic­ans but also from mem­bers of his own Demo­crat­ic Party who face a war-weary pub­lic back home.

Now, Obama is tak­ing his case straight to those con­stitu­ents. Speak­ing to re­port­ers on Fri­day, the pres­id­ent hin­ted at the ar­gu­ments he will make in his ad­dress from the White House next week.

“The kind of world we live in and our abil­ity to de­ter this kind of out­rageous be­ha­vi­or is go­ing to de­pend on the de­cisions that we make in the days ahead,” Obama said in a press con­fer­ence at the G-20 sum­mit in St. Peters­burg.

What are those ar­gu­ments?

This is not just about Syr­ia. It’s about in­ter­na­tion­al norms.

The As­sad’s re­gime brazen use of chem­ic­al weapons isn’t just a Syr­i­an tragedy. It’s a threat to glob­al peace and se­cur­ity.

The chem­ic­al-weapons at­tack was so hor­rif­ic it de­serves a strong re­sponse.

You know, over 1,400 people were gassed. Over 400 of them were chil­dren. This is not something we have fab­ric­ated. This is not something we are look­ing or us­ing as an ex­cuse for mil­it­ary ac­tion.

Obama has spent his pres­id­ency try­ing to end the wars in Afgh­anistan and Ir­aq, but mil­it­ary ac­tion is needed some­times.

I was elec­ted to end wars, not start them. I’ve spent the last four and a half years do­ing everything I can to re­duce our re­li­ance on mil­it­ary power as a means of meet­ing our in­ter­na­tion­al ob­lig­a­tions and pro­tect­ing the Amer­ic­an people. But what I also know, there are times where we have to make hard choices if we are go­ing to stand up for the things we care about, and I be­lieve that this is one of those times.

We can­not go through a broken United Na­tions.

It is my view, and a view that was shared by a num­ber of people in the room, that giv­en Se­cur­ity Coun­cil para­lys­is on this is­sue, if we are ser­i­ous about up­hold­ing a ban on chem­ic­al-weapons use, then an in­ter­na­tion­al re­sponse is re­quired and that will not come through Se­cur­ity Coun­cil ac­tion.

Some ar­gue that a re­sponse would be too little, too late. He dis­agrees.

We may not solve the whole prob­lem, but this par­tic­u­lar prob­lem of us­ing chem­ic­al weapons on chil­dren, this one we might have an im­pact on and that is worth act­ing on. That is im­port­ant to us.

Mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in oth­er na­tions has been un­pop­u­lar throughout his­tory, but it was the right thing to do.

When Lon­don was get­ting bombed, it was pro­foundly un­pop­u­lar, both in Con­gress and around the coun­try, to help the Brit­ish. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do. It just means people are strug­gling with jobs and bills to pay and they don’t want their sons or daugh­ters put in en­tan­gle­ments far away are dan­ger­ous and dif­fer­ent. To bring the ana­logy closer to home, the in­ter­ven­tion in Kosovo, very un­pop­u­lar, but, ul­ti­mately I think it was the right thing to do and the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity should be glad that it came to­geth­er to do it. When people say that it is a ter­rible stain on all of us, that hun­dreds of thou­sands of people were slaughtered in Rwanda, ima­gine if Rwanda was go­ing on right now and we asked should we in­ter­vene in Rwanda? I think it’s fair to say it prob­ably wouldn’t hold real well.

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