Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday that any military action undertaken in Syria would be "unbelievably small."
"We will be able to hold [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria's civil war," Kerry said during an appearance with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, according to The Guardian. "That is exactly what we are talking about doing -- unbelievably small, limited kind of effort."
Kerry, who continues to push the case for intervention during his European trip, was quickly criticized for the remark by Republicans, including supporters of military intervention like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who said he was effectively previewing what the response would be.
"That’s ... certainly a confusing message to me that he would offer that as somebody who believes this is in our national security interest," Rogers said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another supporter of military action, later labeled Kerry's comment "unbelievably unhelpful."
Kerry says #Syria strike would be "unbelievably small" - that is unbelievably unhelpful
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 9, 2013
The administration has repeatedly emphasized that the United States will not be going to war in Syria and that any efforts would be limited to retaliation for the government's alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people.
But many, including members of Congress, worry that the mission would gradually expand over time.
Here's a sampling of the negative reaction on Twitter:
If Assad responds to this "unbelievably small" attack w/another provocation, he better watch out bc Obama will launch a moderately small one
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) September 9, 2013
An unbelievably small administration, running an unbelievably large government.
— jimgeraghty (@jimgeraghty) September 9, 2013
Can something be "unbelievably small" AND "just muscular enough not to get mocked?" Asking for a friend. #iykwimaityd
— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) September 9, 2013
Until just now, I believed the "unbelievably small" comment was just viral parody. Maybe I didn't want to believe it was real.
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) September 9, 2013
"Unbelievably small." pic.twitter.com/W1nBcrbF0S
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) September 9, 2013
The logic of "unbelievably small": If you like your dictatorship and its attendant chemical weapons capability you can keep it.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) September 9, 2013
Unbelievably unwise. Stunningly un-super power. Kerry Sees ‘Unbelievably Small’ Strike on Syria’s Chemicals http://t.co/w4JcHSgQOB
— Hisham Melhem (@hisham_melhem) September 9, 2013
Updated at 11:47 a.m. with McCain's tweet.