Kerry Affirms Commitment to Keeping Syria Accountable as Poll Shows Public Demands Congressional Approval
In an address on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the administration's commitment to keeping Syria's government accountable for the use of chemical weapons but did not lay out a concrete plan of action.
Citing Bashar al-Assad's interference with UN investigations and videos of victims of chemical attacks, Kerry declared that while details are still being filled in by ground investigators, the evidence the United States has of chemical warfare is "real, and it is compelling."
The evidence means that, "with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses," he said. According to Kerry's numbers, over 1400 Syrian civilians were killed in a chemical attack. Among them were more than 400 children.
"[W]hatever decision [President Obama] makes in Syria it will bear no resemblance to Afghanistan, Iraq or even Libya. It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway," Kerry said.
Meanwhile, a new poll released that morning shows that just about the only thing a majority of Americans agree on is that President Barack Obama should get congressional approval before launching an attack on Syria.
The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates for NBC, shows a split opinion on nearly every question. Americans are pretty evenly divided on the president's overall approval rating, as well as his handling of foreign policy. Fifty percent of Americans oppose any military actions in response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, while 42 percent favor intervention. When intervention was limited to airstrikes, those numbers shifted slightly, with 50 percent supporting and 44 opposing the action.
But clearest expression of American opinion was found in a question about whether Obama should be required to seek authorization from congress before beginning military action. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that the president must seek authorization, while only 16 percent said he is not required to do so.
Former President George W. Bush didn't give a firm recommendation on the matter when he spoke on Fox & Friends Friday morning.
"I know you’re trying to subtly rope me into the issues of the day. I refuse to be roped in. Putting our military in harm's way is the toughest decision a president will make," he said.
Many members of congress have already voiced concerns about the president's plans for intervening in Syria. Speaker of the House John Boehner and others believe that an unauthorized strike would be a violation of federal law.
President Obama already exercised his presidential powers to intervene in Libya in 2011, albeit with more international support.
European allies including the United Kingdom have announced that they will not participate in military action in Syria.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Obama administration is preparing for "a limited military strike" on the conflict-ridden country as the death toll continues to climb. As of last month, over 100,000 civilians had been killed, and nearly two million had fled the country.