Syria has refused to provide an accounting of the size of its stockpile, rarely referring in public to its existence. According to an unclassified estimate by the French government, it includes more than 1,000 tons of “chemical agents and precursor chemicals,” including sulfur mustard, VX and sarin gas.
Obama used Tuesday’s 16-minute speech to deliver a point-by-point rebuttal to critics of his military plans.
Acknowledging the weariness the nation feels after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said, “America is not the world’s policeman.”
And yet, he added: “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.”
“Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria,” he declared.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers cautiously welcomed the Russian offer as not only a means to avoid U.S. military involvement but also a way to avoid casting a difficult vote on use of force. After a flurry of briefings the last week, an all-senators briefing scheduled for Wednesday was canceled as events moved quickly.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was hopeful that a diplomatic solution could be reached while skeptical of Russia’s offer.
“A credible threat of military force will have to remain on the table if diplomatic efforts are to have any hope of succeeding,” he said.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., an outspoken critic of involvement in Syria, said Americans “want nothing to do with the Syrian civil war. We fail to see a national security interest in a war between a leader who gasses his own citizens and Islamic rebels who are killing Christians.”