The United Nations won't help, good pal Britain is sitting this one out, so President Barack Obama will take his case for a military attack on Syria directly to the American people next week.
Obama wrapped up his trip to the G20 summit in Russia by telling reporters he will address the nation on Tuesday as Congress prepares to vote on a resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Facing public opposition reflected by legislators hesitant to support him, Obama said Friday that he understands the skepticism over his call for punishing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for what U.S. officials call a sarin gas attack on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 people.
"The American people have gone through a lot when it comes to the military over the last decade or so," Obama said.
He also cited a responsibility borne by the United States as a global power to lead what he hopes would be an international response in order to maintain the credibility of treaties and conventions against weapons of mass destruction.
"I believe when you have a limited proportional strike like this, with manageable risks, then we should bear that responsibility," Obama said, noting that military interventions often lack broad public support but that critics also decry inaction in the face of atrocities abroad.
Foreign interventions unpopular
"When people say that it is a terrible stain on all of us that hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in Rwanda, well imagine if Rwanda was going on right now and we asked: 'Should we intervene in Rwanda?'" the president said. "I think it's fair to say that it probably wouldn't poll real well."
Opposition by permanent Security Council members Russia and China has scuttled Obama's hopes for U.N. authorization of a military response against al-Assad's regime, and usually reliable ally Britain's Parliament decided against joining a military response.
The inability to muster a significant international coalition, like the NATO-led mission with Arab League support that intervened in Libya, caused the president to seek political cover by requesting congressional authorization.
"We will be more effective if we are unified moving forward," Obama said in explaining why he asked for support from Congress for what he argues is a necessary response to the violation of international norms by Syria.
In a likely foreshadowing of Obama's address to the nation next week, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told the liberal Center for American Progress on Friday that non-military alternatives to attacking Syria had been exhausted.
She cited repeated steps by Russia, joined at times by China, to undermine U.N. Security Council action on Syria over the past two years. Because of Russia, Power said, "the Security Council was not even able to put out a statement expressing its disapproval" of the August 21 chemical weapons attack.
Administration lobbying blitz
Obama's speech on Tuesday will culminate an aggressive outreach strategy intended to woo members of Congress to back his pitch for limited strikes, which are expected to be missile attacks at Syrian military command targets but not chemical weapons stockpiles.
The administration says it has intercepts and other intelligence that show the Syrian regime planned the attack and then attempted to cover it up.
Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate committee this week that U.S. intelligence shows the rockets carrying chemical weapons were launched from territory controlled by the Syrian regime and landed in opposition or contested areas of suburban Damascus.
Kerry and British officials say the gas used in the attack was sarin, according to test results. U.N. inspectors who collected samples from the stricken area are expected to provide their own results in coming weeks.
However, after a week of classified briefings, two congressional hearings and other aggressive lobbying by the administration, a majority of the Senate and House remain "undecided" on whether to give Obama authorization to attack, according to CNN's latest count.
In addition, a growing number of legislators say they oppose the move, though it remains too early to predict an outcome.
A heavy lift for Obama
"I knew this was going to be a heavy lift," Obama said during Friday's news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Supporters and critics have called for the president to directly address the American public and make his case for why a military response was necessary.
"Members of Congress represent the views of their constituents, and only a president can convince the public that military action is required," said Brendan Buck, the spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who has said he backs Obama on the issue. "We only hope this isn't coming too late to make the difference."
In the past two weeks, the Obama administration has spoken to at least 60 senators and 125 House members on the issue, a White House official confirmed Friday.