President Obama told the nation Tuesday he is exploring a Russian diplomatic plan to end a chemical weapons dispute in Syria, but reserves the right to take military action. Obama spoke to the country about why Syria matters, and where the nation goes from here. Among the key questions he attempted to answer:
1. Are we going to strike Syria?
"I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. That's my judgment as commander in chief."
2. Is there proof chemical weapons were used in Syria?
"No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cellphone pictures and social media accounts from the attack. And humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas."
3. Will we put American boots on the ground in Syria?
"I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities."
4. Is the strike worth it if we don't take out Assad?
"Others have asked whether it's worth acting if we don't take out Assad. As some members of Congress have said, there's no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria. Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn't do pinpricks."
5. Why are we getting involved in a civil war at all?
"It's true that some of Assad's opponents are extremists. But al-Qaida will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people and the Syrian opposition we work with just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism."
6. Why do we have to be the world's policeman?
"America is not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong, but 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."
7. What's going on with Russia?
"The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they'd join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use."
8. What about our allies?
"I've spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies — France and the United Kingdom — and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control."
9. How is the U.N. going to be involved?
"We'll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st, and we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East, who agree on the need for action."
10. So what about Congress?
"I'd ask every member of Congress and those of you watching at home tonight to view those videos of the attack, and then ask, what kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"