The eyes of the world are on the United States this week. The Syrian regime has blatantly crossed President Obama’s red line, the White House has acknowledged, by using chemical weapons on its people. The president’s response stands to have significant impact on the outcome of the lengthy Syrian civil war. The options facing the president are complicated, have far-reaching ramifications, and may require significant resources.
That’s why, if he chooses to act, the president must explain his decision publicly, clearly, and resolutely.
The president is commander-in-chief. With that power comes obligations. One, of course, is to consult with Congress on the options he sees as a viable response. This consultation has not yet taken place, but it is an essential part of the process. And meaningful consultation should happen before any military action is taken.
More than just to Congress, the president has an obligation to the American people to explain the rationale for the course of action he chooses; why it’s critical to our national security; and what the broader strategy is to achieve stability.
Surveys have shown that the American public is hesitant to intervene in Syria. This is understandable, and it underscores the need for the president to fully explain what is at stake and outline why he believes action is necessary.
If U.S. action is imminent, it is our hope that the president doesn’t forget his obligations – to Congress, but, also, to speak directly to the American people.