President Barack Obama will address the American public Tuesday to press for his case that the United States engage in a military strike in Syria in response to reported chemical weapons use that killed more than 1,400 people, including 400 children.
"Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence," Obama said Friday during a news conference at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. "And that's not the world that we want to live in."
Obama has faced opposition to his proposal to strike at Syrian President Bashar Assad among the American public, Congress and the global community. He's spent part of his time at the economic conference to win over more international partners, even meeting one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has opposed U.S. intervention. Obama had previously canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin after Russia granted asylum to national security whistleblower Edward Snowden.
"We discussed Syria and that was primarily the topic of conversation," Obama said. "Mr. Snowden did not come up beyond me re-emphasizing that where we have common interests, I think it's important for the two of us to work together."
Obama declined to rule out taking unilateral action if Congress votes against authorizing a military strike, but used the press briefing to continue to make his case for action.
"I will continue to consult with Congress and I will make the best case that I can to the American people, as well as to the international community, for taking necessary and appropriate action," he said. "And I intend to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday."
The president also reminded the public of his anti-war record that helped put him in the White House in the first place as a rebuke to critics who say they are concerned the limited, targeted strikes he is describing would lead to a wider military commitment.
"I was elected to end wars and not start them," Obama said. "I've spent the last 4 1/2 years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people."
He also added that if Assad responded to a U.S. strike by using chemical weapons again, his job of garnering support would be easier.
"Is it possible that Assad doubles down in the face of our action and uses chemical weapons more widely? I suppose anything's possible, but it wouldn't be wise," Obama said. "I think at that point, mobilizing the international community would be easier, not harder."
Obama is scheduled to fly back to the United States Friday and has canceled a previously scheduled trip over the weekend to California.