In August of last year, the assembled White House press corps generously acquiesced to the president’s throat-clearing demande du choix and let him “be clear” on the subject of Syria. Secure in his clarity, Obama seized upon Chuck Todd’s inquiry as to whether the administration could “envision using U.S. military, if simply for nothing else, [for] the safekeeping of the chemical weapons” and took the opportunity to outline his position.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime,” he insisted, and “also to other players on the ground.” Heretofore, Obama explained, he had not considered military action against Syria to be necessary. But he knew when he would: “A red line for us,” the president established, “is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” And what would happen should either of those contingencies come to pass? “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation,” Obama said. “The point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical,” he told Todd, thanking him for the question.