WASHINGTON — In an appeal for support both at home and abroad, President Barack Obama said today the credibility of the international community and Congress is on the line in the debate over how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. As Obama made his case overseas during a visit to Sweden, his appeal for military intervention ran into trouble on Capitol Hill.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed its public meeting and remained huddled in private after Sen. John McCain, an outspoken advocate of intervention, said he did not support the latest version of the Senate resolution to authorize military force. The Arizona Republican said he wants more than cruise missile strikes and other limited action. The committee's plan to vote on the resolution Wednesday was thrown into doubt.
On the other side of the Syria debate, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he was not persuaded to support military action, saying the military has been "decimated" by budget cuts and "we're just not in a position to take on any major confrontation." Inhofe spoke as he emerged from a closed-door briefing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that lasted more than two hours.
Obama, asked about his own past comments drawing a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons, said it was a line that had first been clearly drawn by countries around the world and by Congress, in ratifying a treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.
"That wasn't something I just kind of made up," he said. "I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There's a reason for it."
Obama said that if the world fails to act, it will send a message that despots and authoritarian regimes "can continue to act with impunity."