Kerry: Syria intervention will not be like Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya

US secretary of state says military action in Syria will be "limited and tailored," and will not involve "boots on the ground."

August 30, 2013 21:10
2 minute read.
US Secretary of State John Kerry talking about possible US strike in Syria, August 30, 2013.

Kerry in press conference on Syria 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)


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US Secretary of State John Kerry assured the war-weary American people on Friday that any decision the US would make on a military action in Syria would be a "limited and tailored response" and would not in any way resemble the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, nor its intervention to help topple former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"It will not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway," Kerry said of any action US President Barack Obama might pursue.

Kerry, however, did not present any specifics on a US response and did not lay out a timetable for action.

Kerry said the United States will punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for the "brutal and flagrant" chemical weapons attack that he said killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus last week.

In a press conference at the State Department, Kerry explained that doing nothing is not an option because the repercussions of inaction would have a dramatic and far-reaching impact on US national security.

"It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons attacks, will now feel emboldened, in the absence of action, to obtain nuclear weapons," Kerry said. "It is about Hezbollah, and North Korea, and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction."

"Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use," he added, "or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?"

"It matters here if nothing is done," Kerry said. "It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens."

Kerry, who called Assad "a thug and a murderer," said Syria could not go unpunished for such a "crime against humanity."

"History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction," Kerry said.

"So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know? The question is, what are we - we collectively - what are we in the world gonna do about it?"

"If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow," Kerry added.

"Guaranteed Russian obstructionism" would not get in the way of American action, and thus the president had chosen to circumvent the United Nations, Kerry said.

He noted that the UN investigation on the ground, by the definition of its own mandate, would not be determining who was responsible for the attack.

Kerry said that he and the president are "more than mindful of the Iraq experience."

"But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility," he said. Responding, he said, "is profoundly about who we are."

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