The administration’s arguments for striking Syrian targets

The Post's Sean Sullivan distills the president's six TV network interviews Monday night and offers the key takeaways. (Nicki DeMarco, Tom LeGro and Sean Sullivan/The Washington Post)
September 9, 2013

President Obama’s prime-time address Tuesday to explain his reasons for a proposed U.S. military attack on Syrian targets will be the most high-profile effort to explain a course of action that remains unpopular with the American people. ¶ Obama’s most urgent task will be to persuade enough members of Congress to support his approach to Syria. Since the administration publicly declared its conviction that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people, Obama officials have tried to make the case for a military attack. Those arguments have been varied and multiple.

President Obama
(
the importance of an international consensus)

And, you know, if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.” — Aug. 23

Secretary of State John F. Kerry (chemical agents represent a special horror)

“But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious, and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.” — Aug. 26

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said she will support the president’s actions in Syria and hopes Congress will, too. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

President Obama
(a global humanitarian imperative)

“In the face of such barbarism, the international community cannot be silent and that failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and that possibility that other countries would use these weapons, as well.” — Wednesday

Deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken (congressional approval)

It’s neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.” — Friday

Obama
(not the same as Iraq)

“Any action that we contemplate and partners like France might contemplate would be limited, proportionate and appropriate and would be focused on deterring the use of chemical weapons in the future and degrading the Assad regime’s capacity to use chemical weapons. We recognize that there is an underlying civil war that cannot be solved by military means alone.” — Friday

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
(an important symbolic message)

“There is no doubt that this military action will degrade his capability, and it will send a very clear signal.” — Sunday

Kerry
(not really going to war, but something much smaller )

“We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing — [an] unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.” — Monday

National security adviser Susan E. Rice (Assad is setting a precedent that makes the world more dangerous for Americans)

“Failing to respond brings us closer to the day when terrorists might gain and use chemical weapons against Americans abroad and at home.” — Monday

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