That's why I've become convinced -- after listening to you, and after discussions with my military advisors -- that effective military action in Syria will require both a sustained air campaign and American troops on the ground. At a minimum, we will need to send in Special Operations Forces to link up with moderate rebels and provide vital ground intelligence. Depending on how events unfold, it is entirely possible that a larger troop presence will be necessary.
I'm not going to lie to you and promise a bloodless victory.
American troops may well die in Syria. American troops may well die -- as American troops died in World War II and countless other conflicts -- to save the lives of innocent civilians, topple a murderous regime, and prevent violent extremists from taking over. American troops may well die in Syria, and if they do, we will all grieve. But there are some causes worth fighting for. There are some causes worth dying for.
I believe this is one of them.
Some might argue that if Syria is a worthy cause, we should also intervene in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and countless other places in which civilians have been slaughtered.
I truly wish that the United States had the power to solve every problem and save every innocent. But we don't. Some conflicts are both too intractable and too remote in their impact on our national interests to justify U.S. military action.
Nevertheless, the fact that we can't solve every problem does not mean we shouldn't try to solve any problems. In Syria, the murder of thousands of civilians tugs at our consciences, but I also believe vital U.S. interests are truly at stake. The use of chemical weapons, the increasing spillover of the conflict into neighboring states, and the rising influence of al Qaeda-linked rebel groups all pose real threats to U.S. security.
I also believe that in Syria -- unlike in the DRC or many other conflict-stricken regions -- a U.S. military intervention can actually make a positive difference.
This is every bit as important as having a just cause. America should never go to war without just cause -- but equally, we should never go to war without clear goals and solid prospects of achieving those goals.
In Syria, our goals are simple: We will remove Assad from power, bring an end to large-scale conflict, and restore basic security. And we will stay long enough -- but only long enough -- to foster the creation of an interim Syrian government, a government made up of all groups willing to foreswear the use of violence and commit to a peaceful political process.
We aren't seeking perfection, and we aren't seeking revenge. There are few angels among Syria's opposing military forces. But the path to peace will always be available to those willing to walk down it. If members of Assad's government and military foreswear violence, they can be part of Syria's future government. If extremist groups within the insurgency are willing to make the same commitment, they too can participate.
For America cannot decide the shape of Syria's future or punish every wrongdoer. Only the Syrian people can do that. What America can do is stop the wholesale slaughter and create the minimal conditions that will enable Syrians to peacefully choose their own destiny.
The United States will support all Syrian organizations committed to a peaceful political process with funds and technical assistance, but as soon as basic security and an interim government have been established, American ground forces will leave.
We will not occupy Syria militarily. But when we leave, we will send the following, very clear message to all Syrian political actors: We will not hesitate to use military force again if future events in Syria require it, or if any political actors break their end of the bargain and seek to again plunge Syria into mass violence. We will leave -- but if we have to, we will return.
Our goals are clear, and if we avoid half-measures, we have the ability to achieve those goals. We all know there's no such thing as a risk-free military intervention, for us or for the Syrian people. So I'm not going to make any promises I'm not certain I can keep: I won't promise to bring the troops home by Christmas, or tell you that this will be a cakewalk, or that our forces will be greeted with ticker-tape parades.
The honest truth is that we're going into a complicated, messy situation. The situation in Syria could evolve in any number of unpredictable ways. We may have setbacks as well as successes, and we may see more tragedy -- more dead children, more painful images -- before we see a stable Syria.
But we're going in with our eyes open. And I can promise you this: I believe our military leaders have a solid, achievable plan for decisive success, and I believe they have considered every reasonable contingency. We will go in with a solid, responsible plan, and we will adapt that plan as needed.
I am not going to discuss details of timelines, troop numbers, targets, or tactics. That would enable our adversaries to prepare.
I will, however, work with Congressional leaders to ensure that the House and Senate are fully informed of the relevant details, and if future circumstances warrant it, I will request that Congress formally authorize the use of force. But as commander in chief, I have the authority and the obligation to use force when I consider it necessary to protect U.S. interests -- and this is the case now.
As for the international community, I will continue to urge other Security Council members to stand with us as we embark on this struggle. But if the United States is the only nation with the will and the strength to stanch the bleeding in Syria, so be it. We will act with others whenever possible, but we will act alone when truly necessary.
Thank you for your support, and thank you for your wisdom.