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President Barack Obama answered some direct questions about the reasons for, and potential consequences of, a military strike on Syria.
Although he’s still in favor of what he calls a “targeted strike, to achieve a clear objective,” the Commander-in-Chief also said “America is not the world’s policeman.”
President Obama said he’s asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote to authorize the use of military force against Syria, while world leaders pursue a diplomatic path to put any chemical weapons under international control. However, Obama said the U.S. military will keep the pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, and “be ready to respond” if other measures fail.
He added, “When with modest effort and risk we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Administration officials said the speech was the sixth Obama has made to the nation from the White House in more than four-and-a-half years as president. It capped a frenzied 10-day stretch that began when he unexpectedly announced he was stepping back from a threatened military strike and asking Congress to pass legislation authorizing the use of force against Assad.
With public opinion polls consistently showing widespread opposition to American military intervention, the White House has struggled mightily to generate support among lawmakers, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, who have expressed fears of involvement in yet another war in the Middle East and have questioned whether U.S. national security interests were at stake in Syria. Obama had trouble, as well, building international support for a military attack designed to degrade Assad’s military.
Suddenly, though, events took another unexpected turn on Monday. First Russia and then Syria reacted positively to a seemingly off-hand remark from Secretary of State John Kerry indicating that the crisis could be defused if Damascus agreed to put its chemical weapons under international control.