President Obama aide: Resistance to Syria strike 'understandable'

10:20 AM, Sep 8, 2013   |    comments
President Obama (Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
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White House chief of staff Denis McDonough took to the Sunday shows to make the Obama administration's case for a military strike against Syria, as President Obama and his aides make their closing argument in their effort to win congressional authorization for action against Bashar Assad's regime.

McDonough was on all five major Sunday interview programs as part of the administration's sales pitch on Syria. Lawmakers, who are expected to vote on a use-of-force resolution this week, say they are hearing by large margins from constituents to vote against a military strike.

"That's an absolutely understandable sentiment, given all the sacrifice and investment the United States has made, and our armed forces have made in the last 11 and 12 years," McDonough said on Fox News Sunday. "That's why what the president has in mind here-and what we're consulting Congress on-- is a limited, targeted consequential action. Let me tell you what this is not: This is not Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not Libya-a sustained air campaign. This is not boots on the ground.

President Obama is also set to sit down for six network television interviews to make his case on Syria on Monday, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice will deliver a major address on Monday afternoon in Washington on Syria.

President Obama will culminate his push with a Tuesday evening address from the Oval Office. McDonough declined to preview the president's comments.

McDonough also seemed to acknowledge that a limited military strike is unlikely to change the course of the 2 ½ year-old civil war that has left 100,000 Syrians dead. And he told CNN's "State of the Union" that the president carefully weighed many risks that could come with a military strike, including the chance that "somehow we get dragged into the middle of an ongoing civil war" and the possibility of retaliation against the U.S. or Israel.

But McDonough made the case that the "risks for inaction outweigh the risks for action." He also said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that President Obama wants Congress to be "a full partner" in military action against Assad's regime.

"This is a person who has gone from using overwhelming conventional force to using napalm on children to now using chemical weapons...with the scale and scope we have not seen in three decades," McDonough said. "The question for Congress this week is....should there be consequences for this. The Iranians are going to watch for that answer. The Syrians are going to watch for that answer. Hezbollah is going to watch for that answer."

McDonough sidestepped questions on whether President Obama would still move forward with a military strike if Congress rejects his call for authorization for the use-of-force.

"What the president has said throughout the course of this is: If Congress wants to make sure there is consequence for a dictator using these dastardly weapons against his own people-including children-then they are going to have to vote yes for this resolution," McDonough said.

"Our consultation with Congress and the president's request for authorization is not an empty exercise," McDonough added on CNN's "State of the Union."

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