Sep 11 2013
Barack Obama has told the world that he did not think force could solve the Syrian civil war, but changed his mind after Bashar Assad's regime gassed its own people.
The US President used a televised address to the nation to explain his thinking on the fighting in Syria. He said he long resisted calls for military action there but the use of chemical weapons on August 21 shifted his thinking and believed the United States must respond with a military strike to deter their future use.
Mr Obama said no one disputed that chemical weapons were used and said thousands of Syrians died from them.
He said the images and videos of men, women and children being gassed were sickening and demanded a response. But he pledged he would not deploy ground combat troops or wage a prolonged air campaign against Syria.
In his speech seeking public support for a possible military strike against President Assad's government, Mr Obama also promised he would not pursue an open-ended military action. He said he realised that many Americans were weary of military action after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the limitations he was imposing on the potential strike would ensure against the US sliding down a slippery slope into another prolonged war.
Mr Obama made his remarks as the US explores whether a Russian proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control might work, and as the administration seeks political support for an attack. He said he had ordered the US military to maintain its current posture to keep the pressure on Assad's regime, should diplomacy fail.
The President outlined his plans to respond to the use of chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb on August 21 that the US says killed more than 1,400 people. Mr Obama said he was working closely with world leaders.
Mr Obama said he was continuing discussions with Russian president Vladimir Putin, while dispatching secretary of state John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart tomorrow. Mr Obama said he was also speaking to France and Britain and would work with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
The President said the United States could not be the world's policeman, but added that the nation could save Syrian children from being gassed to death. Using the rare prime-time television address, Mr Obama said it was within the America's ability to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again by launching military strikes. He also said other nations' leaders would see the consequences of using such weapons and think twice.
Mr Obama said the images and videos of children in pain and dying required the United States to act and military strikes on Syria would make Syrian and US children safer in the long run. But he conceded it was impossible for the US to right every wrong.