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Syria: What will Obama say in speech to the nation? A preview. (+video)

Samantha Power – the US ambassador to the UN and a chief interventionist in the Obama White House – spoke at a Washington think tank Friday, laying out the case for taking military action against Syria.

By Staff writer / September 6, 2013


Washington

One of the chief interventionists of the Obama White House offered a preview Friday of the arguments the president will make when he addresses the American people Tuesday evening on the case for taking military action against Syria over the use of chemical weapons.

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Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations and one of President Obama’s aides who argued successfully in 2011 for US intervention in Libya, told a small Washington audience that “chemical weapons are different.” The consequences of letting the worst instance of their use in decades go unpunished, she said, would stretch well beyond Syria or even the Middle East.

“We cannot afford to signal to Iran and North Korea that the world is unable to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and unwilling to act against [their] use,” she said.

Ambassador Power spoke at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington think tank that is generally friendly toward the policies and goals of the Obama administration. The human rights advocate and member of the president’s first-term national security team was greeted with polite applause for her speech, while outside a small group of protesters shouted, “No war!” and “Shame on the Center for American Progress for hosting a warmonger!”

Power acknowledged that the American public is highly reluctant to enter another Mideast conflict and is worried about the risks that come with getting involved. But expressing a sentiment that Mr. Obama and other administration officials have been underscoring all week, she said, “The risks of not acting are far greater than the risks of taking targeted action” against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Power’s speech struck more than one listener as something of a practice run for the address Obama plans to deliver Tuesday evening. That speech will be part of his effort to win over a Congress that by all reports is hearing mostly “no” from constituents.

“She pretty much laid out the way Obama is going to do this, the points he’ll make to try to convince the public that this thing is necessary,” says Lawrence Korb, a national security expert at CAP and a former Pentagon official during the Reagan administration.

Those points include, “We tried the diplomatic route and it didn’t work, there will be no boots on the ground, letting Assad get away with using chemical weapons will undermine our ability to stop them elsewhere, that kind of thing,” Mr. Korb says.

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