Slatest PM: Obama's Case For "Limited" Intervention

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 30 2013 4:51 PM

Slatest PM: Obama's Case For "Limited" Intervention

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US President Barack Obama (C) delivers a statement on Syria during a meeting with Latvia President Andris Berzins (L), Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (2nd L) Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite (2nd R) and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House in Washington, DC, August 30, 2013

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Making Their Case: New York Times: "The Obama administration on Friday forcefully presented a case for a strike on Syria, as President Obama said he was considering a 'limited' attack and Secretary of State John Kerry declared there was 'clear' and 'compelling' evidence that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used poison gas against its citizens. ... The president said he was continuing to consult with Congress and allies in other countries, but said that any attack would not involve American troops on the ground in Syria. ... Kerry said the administration had 'high confidence' in the intelligence, much of which was being released to the public as he spoke. But he vowed that the government had carefully reviewed the evidence to avoid the kind of intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq war. 'We will not repeat that moment,' he said."

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The Evidence: Washington Post: "A U.S. intelligence assessment of last week’s suspected chemical-weapons attack near Damascus cites intercepted communications that allegedly showed Syrian government officials making preparations to use chemical weapons three days before the attack and then launching efforts afterward to cover it up. ... The assessment was by far the most detailed depiction of the intelligence gathered by Western government about the nature of attack and why American officials believe the Assad government was responsible. While it did not present evidence showing complicity by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or his inner circle, it asserts 'with high confidence' that government forces were behind the attack."

Instant Analysis: One reason that Kerry was front and center Friday afternoon making a similar sales pitch to the one he made at the beginning of this week is because many Americans remain unconvinced. An NBC News poll out this morning suggests that half of the country thinks the United States should stay on the sidelines. The White House, likewise, is facing increasing opposition in Washington and abroad.

Our "Oldest Alley": On Thursday evening, British lawmakers rather stunningly rejected the option of their own military involvement, leaving the White House without one of its most trusted allies. That blow to the White House's efforts to cobble together an international coalition was eased, at least somewhat, this morning when French President Francois Hollande said his country is "ready" to act. Kerry made sure to mention Hollande's support during today's statement, calling France America's "oldest ally."

It's Friday, August 30, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at@JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @Slatest.

Stroller Shooting: Associated Press: "An 18-year-old man was convicted of murder in the shooting of a baby who was riding in a stroller alongside his mom in a town in coastal Georgia. Jurors deliberated about two hours before finding De'Marquise Elkins guilty in the March 21 killing of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago in Brunswick. The man's mother, Karimah Elkins, was on trial alongside him and was found guilty of tampering with evidence but acquitted of lying to police. De'Marquise Elkins' attorney asked for bond for his client while they appealed, which a judge denied. Prosecutors said Elkins killed Antonio in an attempted robbery. The baby's mother, Sherry West, also was shot."

The Sound of Silence: Reuters: "The British government has asked the New York Times to destroy copies of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden related to the operations of the U.S. spy agency and its British partner, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), people familiar with the matter said. The British request, made to Times executive editor Jill Abramson by a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., was greeted by Abramson with silence, according to the sources. British officials indicated they intended to follow up on their request later with the Times, but never did, one of the sources said."

North Korea Withdraws Invite: NBC News: "The U.S. State Department says North Korea has rescinded its invitation for a senior U.S. envoy to travel to Pyongyang to seek the release of a detained American.  Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, was due to travel from Tokyo to Pyongyang on Friday to request a pardon and amnesty for Kenneth Bae. Bae has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by the authoritarian state, accused of subversion. Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is "surprised and disappointed by North Korea's decision" and remains gravely concerned about Bae's health."

RIP, Seamus Heaney: Wall Street Journal: "The Irish poet Seamus Heaney, a Nobel laureate and one of the 20th century's greatest poets, died Friday at age 74. Mr. Heaney died in a Dublin hospital after a short illness, according to a statement from his publisher, Faber & Faber. The most acclaimed Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, Mr. Heaney was loved by critics and everyday readers alike. So admired was he in Ireland that locals referred to him as Famous Seamus."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

That's all for this week. See you back here Monday. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds