President Obama walks from the podium after speaking Wednesday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
(Photo: By Carolyn Kaster, AP)
WASHINGTON - President Obama said Friday he is considering a "limited, narrow act" as a military response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.
Calling it "a challenge to the world," Obama said the use of chemical weapons threatens U.S. national security and merits a response.
STORY: White House releases evidence of Syria chemical attack
"We're not considering any open-ended commitment," the president said. "We're not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach."
Obama emphasized that he has not made any decisions about what actions the United States will take. He said his military advisers have looked at a wide range of options.
"I meant what I said: that the world has an obligation to make sure that we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons," Obama said after the release of documents he said proves Syria's recent attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including more than 400 children. "We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on an incredible scale."
Despite the focus on potential military action, most likely involving Navy warships in the eastern Mediterranean, the president said, "There's not going to be a solely military solution to the underlying conflict and tragedy that's taking place in Syria."
Obama made his comments to reporters while meeting with the leaders of three Eastern European nations. In response to a question, he acknowledged that many people, including himself, are "war-weary."
""There is a certain weariness, given Afghanistan," he said. "There is a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq. And I very much appreciate that."
But, he said, "it's important for us to recognize that when over 1,000 people are killed, including hundreds of innocent children, through the use of a weapon that 98 or 99% of humanity says should not be used even in war, and there is no action, then we're sending a signal. ... That is a danger to our national security."
Obama said Congress will get "all the input they need," but "ultimately, we don't want the world to be paralyzed."
"A lot of people think something should be done," he said, "but nobody wants to do it."
Secretary of State John Kerry said the need for a U.S. response "matters also beyond the limits of Syria's borders."
"It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons," he said. "It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons' current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?"