IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Dear Mr. President: The letters that swayed Obama

President Obama wants America to know: when it comes to Syria, he's listening.
Barack Obama Syria Speech - 09/10/2013
President Barack Obama addresses the nation in a live televised speech from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013.

President Obama wants America to know: when it comes to Syria, he's listening.

While laying out his case for U.S. military action against Syria during his prime time address on Tuesday night, the commander-in-chief directly answered questions he was asked in letters from people around the country.

Obama showed his awareness of public opinion and acknowledged many Americans’ reluctance to engage in another war.

He started by talking about one man who wrote that the country is still recovering from our involvement in Iraq. Another veteran, Obama said, “Put it more bluntly: this nation is sick and tired of war.”

The president said his answer was “simple” -- that he wouldn't put American boots on the ground and that any military action wouldn't be open-ended like Iraq or Afghanistan. “This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective, deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities,” said Obama.

Obama said others asked him if it’s worth military strikes even if American doesn't take out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The president insisted that “even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”

Other questions were about the possibilities of retaliation if the U.S. acts. Obama insisted that the “Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military…Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise.”

Finally, Obama said “many” Americans have asked why he doesn't leave the task of intervention to other countries. “As several people wrote to me, we should not be the world’s policeman.”

The president said he agreed, and while he prefers peaceful solutions (and would give diplomacy a chance), the last two years of attempted negotiations did not work.

Obama said that there have been encouraging signs over the past few days, including Syria admitting it had chemical weapons and the Russians putting forth a proposal to disarm the Middle Eastern country. The president insisted that the hopeful moves were a direct result of the threaten of U.S. military action.

“America is not the world’s policeman,” he said toward the end of his speech. “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.”

President Obama has made a point during his tenure to read letters from citizens. In his first week as president, he asked staffers to choose 10 letters a day from constituents across the country for him to read.

He told Us Weekly last year for a piece called “25 things you don’t know about me” that he’s continued the tradition. “This is important to me because it helps remind me of the people I’m fighting for on a daily basis,” he said.