Though President Barack Obama has not yet decided how to respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he said on Friday that the military action will be “narrow, limited”.
He went on to then describe what it won’t be: no boots on the ground (US-speak for ground invasion) and it won’t be an open-ended, long term engagement like Afghanistan.
The US is “looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm,” Obama said on Friday.
Polls show most Americans don’t want another war. President Obama knows that and has addressed that issue saying no one is more war-weary than him.
But the pressure is mounting on him to respond, by allies and aides. Though unwilling to go into another war — he wound down Iraq in his first term, and is in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan — Obama does need much convincing.
“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” Obama said, revealing his own sense of outrage at the chemical attacks.
Kerry has called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a “thug” and a “murderer”.
By US intelligence estimates, 1,429 people, including 426 children, were killed by chemical weapons launched by the Syrian government in the early hour of August 21.
But the administration is very keen to avoid being seen as rushing into an armed conflict without convincing the country and, more importantly, lawmakers on either side of the aisle.
They are mindful of comparisons to Iraq, which the US invaded in 2003 citing dubious evidence of its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found.