As many people throughout the Nation and a growing number of Congressmen continue to oppose American intervention in Syria, President Barack Obama is slated to address the populace from the Oval Office on Tuesday to make his case for war.
The President announced his plan on Friday during a break from the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, warning that the United States’ failure to swiftly respond to allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use would send the wrong message to the international community.
“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence,” Obama said. “And that’s not the world that we want to live in.”
A New York Times piece published Friday cited officials who indicated that the President has also ordered an expansion of the list of targets he wishes to strike in Syria based on reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to fired chemical weapons.
The Times reported:
Mr. Obama’s instructions come as most members of Congress who are even willing to consider voting in favor of a military response to a chemical attack are insisting on strict limits on the duration and type of the strikes carried out by the United States, while a small number of Republicans are telling the White House that the current plans are not muscular enough to destabilize the Assad government.
Senior officials are aware of the competing imperatives they now confront — that to win even the fight on Capitol Hill, they will have to accept restrictions on the military response, and in order to make the strike meaningful they must expand its scope.
“They are being pulled in two different directions,” a senior foreign official involved in the discussions said Thursday. “The worst outcome would be to come out of this bruising battle with Congress and conduct a military action that made little difference.”
Obama’s insistence that the United States should strike Syria made for an awkward situation at the Russian-hosted G-20 summit, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to hold steadfast in support of the Syrian leadership.
Putin said last week that G-20 nations spent the “entire” Thursday evening deliberating the Syrian crisis. He insists that a majority of his international counterparts are against military action against the Syrian government and said Russia “will help Syria” in the event of a military strike.
Russia has since positioned war ships near the Syrian coast.
By the end of last week, Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France had joined the U.S. push for intervention, while Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy stood in firm opposition.
At home, Obama’s political allies on both sides of the aisle have been busy pushing the notion that U.S. intervention in Syria is obligatory.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took on the form of a Congressional super-hawk by the week’s end, writing three public letters to her caucus in an attempt to drum up public support for the war.
In her third letter, Pelosi emphasized restrictions in the Senate Foreign Relations Committees proposal for Syrian war which she contends address “some of the concerns expressed by many of our House members” about a military strike — essentially, a small war should be a popular war.
“Specifically, the resolution prevents boots on the ground, ties the authorization more closely to the use of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction, and has a limited timetable,” Pelosi wrote.
By Friday, more than 20 House members had expressed public support for Syrian war and about 50 were staunchly opposed.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), an outspoken supporter of war with Syria, was forced to go on the defensive during a town hall meeting with his constituents on Thursday, further illustrating the disconnect between the average American and the Nation’s political class on the issue.
“I want to begin by saying to you I am unalterably opposed to having a single American boot on the ground in Syria,” McCain said. “The American people wouldn’t stand for it.
“Second of all, it would not be anything but counterproductive to do that. American blood and treasure is too precious to do that.”
But, McCain said, irrefutable evidence that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against civilians exists.
“I have seen the information, and the American people will see more and more information, that Bashar Assad did use chemical weapons and it killed well over 1,000 people, many of them children,” he told the crowd in Arizona.
“If we open the door to the use of chemical weapons and let it go unresponded to, then I think that sends a signal to other people that want to use them, that they can do so with impunity,” McCain said.
Meanwhile, conservatives and anti-war liberals throughout the Nation continue to refute the notion that intervention in the Syrian civil war should take place.
Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party-linked FreedomWorks, commented on the situation Friday.
“Congress should be focusing on the red ink at home, not arbitrarily established red lines abroad. As a membership organization, FreedomWorks has been overwhelmed with requests to help activists express their voice in this debate,” he said in a statement. “A broad coalition of Americans, including the millions of grassroots activists represented in the FreedomWorks community, has already roundly rejected the Obama Administration’s rationale for bombing Syria. Congress ignores the will of the voters on this issue at their own peril.
“In many ways, this ‘insiders versus the rest of us’ dynamic reflects the same recipe that led to the defeat of the first TARP bailout attempt on the House floor in 2008. This tone deafness gave rise to a grassroots revolution.”
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released early last week revealed that nearly six in 10 Americans oppose a military strike against Syria, with or without “boots on the ground.”