Meet the Press   |  September 08, 2013

McDonough: 'No boots on the ground'

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough specifies what type of action will be taken in Syria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> you know, i'm hearing you make this case. i know the president's speaking tuesday night, and i'm sure he will say similar things. and yet you look at the polling. this past week, nearly 60% of the american public is opposed to military strikes in syria. it's almost a collective sense in the country saying why is the united states going to start another war?

>> right. and it's entirely understandable. given everything that our country has gone through, the great sacrifices that our families, that our troops and their families have made, the investments that we've made. that's why the president has been very clear. and let me just underscore that now. here's what this is not. no boots on the ground . not an extended air campaign. not a situation like iraq and afghanistan. not a situation even like libya. this is a targeted, limited, consequential action to reinforce this prohibition against these weapons that unless we reinforce this prohibition will proliferate and threaten our friends and our allies.

>> but what's the point? if you're outlining what it's not, what does it actually accomplish that forces assad to never use these weapons again?

>> here's what it does. it degrades his capacity to use them again. it also makes him think twice before he goes to these dastardly weapons again. and why does that matter? if he's going to use these things more aggressively, david, he's going to take them out of secure storage, push them onto the front lines. you know what that means? there's a greater risk of them being proliferated.

>> is there any question that he ordered attack personally?

>> no question in my mind. and i just want to bring back to this question, david, not a single member of congress has rebutted the intelligence as i've consulted with them. and the question then becomes what are the consequences for him for having done this, and what does the world read from how we react to it?

>> but congress , nor the public, is convinced that what you say you'll do will actually accomplish what you say you must accomplish.

>> well, that's why it's so important, and that's why the president went to congress and said, you know what? we want to get off this permanent war footing . that's what the president has been doing. he ended the war in iraq . and he said to congress , i want you to be my full partner in the prosecution of this effort. you, congress , as full partners will ensure greater discipline in how we carry this out. you, congress , will ensure that when we say it's a targeted mission, it does not creep. and that's exactly why we want congress involved.

>> are you committed to changing momentum on the syrian battlefield?

>> we have a policy that includes all the indications and all the weapons of our strength, diplomatic, economic and kinetic that would undercore and help us carry out our policy goal at the end of the day .

>> does the president want the rebels to win or not?

>> the president wants there to be a resolution, a political resolution, among syrians . that's how these things end. so we need to empower the syrians , the moderate opposition, we're supporting them.

>> do you want to change -- with military action . direct question , do you want to change the momentum on the battlefield?

>> there is no doubt that this military action will degrade his capability, and it will send a very clear signal. we've seen now indications that for these several weeks since we've been having this debate in this country, the syrians are on high alert. when they're on high alert worrying about what's going to happen to them, it erodes their capability to attack the opposition and carry out these heinous attacks. that's in our interests.