Obama warns U.S. ‘doesn’t do pinpricks’
President Barack Obama said Tuesday night that he would put off a military strike and work with Russia, China and American allies to force Syria to hand over its chemical weapons.
Obama, speaking from the East Room of the White House, said that the Syrian government’s use of chemicals in an attack on rebels last month presented a danger to American security and violated the world’s conscience.
The president, arguing a moral case to a country wearied by a decade of war, invoked gruesome images from the attack Aug. 21 outside the Syrian capital. He spoke of fathers clutching lifeless children, dead bodies lined up in rows and people left foaming at the mouth.
“Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough,” he said. “What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?”
Obama said he would work with other countries to pressure Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control and ultimately destroy them — a proposal that reshaped both the crisis and the president’s address over two furious days of diplomacy.
But Obama said he would order the military to stay in place in the region and to keep pressure on Bashar Assad, the Syrian leader, who the United States says ordered the attack against his opponents in Syria’s civil war.
Obama pledged not to send American troops into Syria but warned: “The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”
The president said American security was put at risk by the chemical attack. He said failing to respond would encourage Assad to use chemicals again, embolden other tyrants around the world and endanger U.S. allies, including Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
He said the United States could not be the world’s police, “but 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.”
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