Making the case for intervention in Syria to a war-weary American public, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the strike will be “unbelievably small” — a comment that has already earned him relentless mocking in its immediate aftermath.
“We’re not going to war. We will not have people at risk in that way,” Kerry said during a press conference in London with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, according to a transcript released by the State Department.
“We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war.
“That is exactly what we’re talking about doing — unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”
Kerry’s comments are a microcosm of the poor job the Obama administration has done trying to explain the rationale for intervention. On one hand, they realise they are dealing with a “war-weary” public sceptical of engaging in another Middle East conflict.
On the other hand, Kerry has made repeated comments casting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the greatest villain of the 21st century, in response to an alleged chemical-weapons attack against his own people on Aug. 21. The U.S. says the attack killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.
In a blistering statement unveiling the evidence the U.S. had against Assad, Kerry called him a “thug” and a “murderer.” He has also made repeated comparisons of Assad to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. He has also said this is a “Munich moment” for members of Congress deciding whether to grant President Obama the authority to carry out limited strikes.
Kerry earned immediate fire from even supporters of the administration’s plan, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
“I don’t understand what he means by that,” Rogers said when asked to analyse Kerry’s comments Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“This is part of the problem. That’s a very confusing message. Certainly a confusing message to me — that he would offer that, as somebody who believes this is in our national security interest.”
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