The president's top national security adviser emphasized her experience as a mother as well as in international diplomacy to say Monday that targeted military strikes in Syria are the only solution to stopping chemical weapons use there.
In prepared remarks, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice leaned on videos out of Syria depicting children who appear to be dead or dying as a result of gas attacks as evidence of what President Barack Obama considers absolute proof that the Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people.
Obama and top administration officials continue a full media blitz in an attempt to convince members of Congress to authorize missile strikes against Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure.
"If we begin to erode the moral outrage of gassing children in their bed, we open ourselves up to even more fearsome consequences," Rice said, while speaking at the D.C.-based think tank the New America Foundation.
Rice, speaking as an adviser but also as "a parent, a mother," referenced images of Syrian parents wrapping the bodies of their dead children in white shrouds as if they were tucking them into bed for the last time. New America Foundation CEO and President Anne-Marie Slaughter referenced in her introductory remarks Rice's decision to bring her infant son to a Senate hearing in 1997.
Rice began Monday afternoon a list of consequences for U.S. military inaction, each time beginning with the phrase, "failing to respond." She referenced threats to U.S. national security, the risk of violence and instability throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and that it "could indicate that the U.S. is not prepared to use the full range of tools necessary to keep our nation secure."
"The decision our nation makes in the coming days is being watched in capitals around the world, especially in Tehran and Pyongyang," she said. "They're watching to see whether the U.S. will stand up for the world we're trying to build for our children and future generations."
"By allowing Assad to act with impunity, everything else becomes a little harder," she said.
Rice did not comment on reports Monday that the Russian government had proposed putting Syrian chemical weapons caches under international control, with the ultimate goal of destroying them. The Washington Post reports that Syria welcomed the suggestion.
White House official Ben Rhodes said the administration is open to the position, Politico reports, but that would not negate the need for a U.S. missile strike.
"What we don't want to have is a stalling exercise where the Syrians don't follow through on commitments. We'll take a look at this," Rhodes told MSNBC.
Rice most recently served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N., and criticized previous attempts at international diplomacy to solve the problem in Syria.
"President Obama has consistently demonstrated his commitment to multilateral diplomacy," she said. "Let's be realistic: It's just not going to happen now. Believe me, I know. I was there for all of those U.N. debates and negotiations on Syria. I lived it, and it was shameful."
Russia and China, both members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, have on three separate occasions struck down resolutions condemning the violence in Syria.
"The reason President Obama decided to pursue limited strikes is that we and others have already exhausted a host of other measures aimed at changing Assad's calculus and his willingness to use chemical weapons," she said.