With the drumbeat of military action against Syria building in intensity, President Obama today said he has decided that the United States should launch limited military strikes against Syria. He urged a congressional vote to authorize the action, saying “in a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”
“After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” Obama said from the Rose Garden of the White House. “This would not be an open-ended intervention, we would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.”
The president is facing considerable resistance from both members of Congress and the American public, which in a new poll gave him his lowest approval rating since he took office.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe Obama should get prior approval from Congress before using force in Syria—but the country is split on what kind of action should be taken, according to a new poll by NBC News.
Obama’s overall job-approval rating has dropped one point since last month, to 44 percent, tied for his lowest mark in all of the past NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys. The poll respondents gave him even lower marks on foreign policy, with just 41 percent approving of his handling of the issue — an all-time low—and only 35 percent approving of his handling of the situation in Syria.
The president and White House officials are clear that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to attack his own people, killing more than 600 last week.
While 50 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should not intervene in Syria, the public is more supportive of military action when it is limited to launching cruise missiles from U.S. naval ships — 50 percent favor that kind of intervention, while 44 percent oppose it.
As the president briefed congressional leaders on the possibilities of military intervention on Thursday, Britain’s Parliament rebuffed Prime Minister David Cameron and rejected a motion urging an international response to the chemical weapons attacks.
In the NBC poll, 58 percent of respondents agree with the statement that the use of chemical weapons by any country violates a “red line” that requires a significant U.S. response, including the possibility of military action.
But nearly 7 in 10 Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans say the president should be required to receive congressional approval before taking any action, with 21 percent believing that taking action against the Syrian government is in the national interest of the U.S. and 33 percent disagreeing. An unusually high 45 percent of respondents said they don’t know enough to have an opinion.
Meanwhile, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a well-known liberal, joined Fox News “Hannity” guest host Tucker Carlson on Friday night to say that if Obama goes around Congress to take unilateral military action on Syria, he risks impeachment.
Kucinich explained that “there is no imminent or actual threat” from Syria, and said that in spite of Obama talking about what he thinks and what decision he wants to make, the decision must to be decided by the elected representatives of the people. And if it’s not, that could easily be an impeachable offense.
Obama declared that he had spoken by telephone with Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and they agreed to hold a debate and a vote on authorizing the use of force “as soon as Congress comes back into session,” which would be Sept. 9—unless they opt to return earlier.
“I’m prepared to give that order, but having made my decision as commander in chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interest, I’m also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy,” Obama said. “I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.”
The president said his top military advisers have assured him that American military assets are in place and can “strike whenever we choose.” He said the decision to unleash an attack is “not time sensitive – it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now.”
White House aides said top national security officials would brief all members of the Senate and House at 2 p.m. tomorrow.