Secretary of State John Kerry brought the case for Syrian intervention to the left on Thursday night during an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. As the Obama administration continues to lobby legislators on their upcoming vote to authorize a military strike on Syria, the administration's been waging a companion campaign to win over a skeptical public on the prospect of using lethal force on Syria in the context of their years-long conflict. Kerry's case, for one thing, argues that military intervention wouldn't be the same as the U.S. going to war.
Now, most importantly, Chris, we’re not remotely talking about getting America involved directly in between any of those forces. The president is not talking about, uh, assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. What the president is trying to do and what we believe is important to America’s national security interests and to humanitarian interests and to the interests of Israel and Jordan and Lebanon and all of our friends in the region is that you hold Bashar Al-Assad responsible for use of chemical weapons and that you degrade his ability to use them again and deter him from using them again. That’s what’s really important here. That’s all that we’re talking about in this.
Kerry went on to explain that military retaliation by the U.S. was intended to essentially get Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to the table for a negotiated, political, change of power. He added, "a lot of people in the country are sitting there and saying oh, my gosh, this is going to be Iraq, this is going to be Afghanistan. Here we go again.. know this. I — I’ve heard it. And the answer is no, profoundly no." Kerry also addressed Bush-era critics of the Syria intervention, like Donald Rumsfeld. He said:
It just doesn't make a difference to me, because they're so discredited by their own judgments that it's hard to see that they have a judgment today that is relevant to this.
The full transcript is here. Or watch the full interview below:
Kerry's interview (which isn't the only one he's given to a liberal outlet recently), comes one day after the administration launched a website to make the case to the U.S. public. And earlier on Thursday, news broke that the CIA had put together a DVD to sway members of Congress on the vote, indicating that the administration's Syria campaign is far from over.
How did Chris Hayes's viewers react? It's fair to say with some skepticism:
Kerry might have been able to sell this based on humanitarian grounds, but saying Syria is a direct threat to the US is an odd strategy.— allisonkilkenny (@allisonkilkenny) September 6, 2013
Secty Kerry is a man on a crusade. Not sure what roots of his passion are?— Katrina vandenHeuvel (@KatrinaNation) September 6, 2013
Kerry confident he's aware of all the known unknowns. Iffy on the unknown uknowns.— Eli Clifton (@EliClifton) September 6, 2013
Honestly, folks, I think it's nice John Kerry is trying to persuade progressives. But I think he made a terrible case.— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) September 6, 2013
The administration faces bipartisan opposition from the American public on a Syrian intervention. Six in 10 Americans overall oppose Syrian military action, including 48 percent, of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans.