President Obama's Defining Moment on Syria

ABC's Terry Moran reports on the president's plea to the American public for support.
7:05 | 09/11/13

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Transcript for President Obama's Defining Moment on Syria
President Obama spoke directly to an American public increasingly wary of any military action in Syria. Addressing concerns articulated by citizens and lawmakers alike. He described the dire consequences for America of ignoring Syrian president -- -- actions. But there are also according to President Obama encouraging signs on the diplomatic front. ABC's chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran is in Beirut with full coverage of the crisis in Syria terror. -- when a president speaks about the possibility of taking America to war he's addressing not just the nation but the world I'm here in Beirut. A city that has been wrecked by war twice in my lifetime in Lebanon. A country where the Syrian civil wars already spilling over refugees pouring in -- economy staggering. Violence spreading and just a couple of hours from where I'm standing. Syria and the horrors there. People here in the Middle East. We've seen so much of war over the decades are a lot like Americans they are skeptical. About this crisis they're anxious about it and so tonight. In a make or break moment for him. President Obama addressed all these audiences trying to clear things up. Make his case and -- President Obama strode down the great hall of the White House to talk to the American people about war -- -- to talk to you about Syria. He had taken that long walk once before under very different circumstances announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden tonight. I can report to the American people and to the world. The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden's top there was no victory in his demeanor tonight now. I know that after the terrible soul of Iraq and Afghanistan. The idea of any military action no matter how limited. Is not going to be popular. Tonight the nation saw president struggling to convince the country of the brightness of -- dangerous course of action a country that has shown skepticism. Towards a new war. Cannot afford to turn Syria into another Iraq. My short -- this is not know -- hell in the face of such strong opposition from the left and the right. Obama sounded almost defensive deterrence is turning to respond to his critics. Some members of congress have said there's no point in simply doing a pin -- strike. In Syria. Let me make something clear. The united states military doesn't do pin pricks and again and again the president tried to reassure Americans about what his Syria policy. I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or -- Sobel. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective. Deterring the use of chemical weapons. And degrading -- -- capabilities. This crisis is in part of the president's own making. A year ago he's somewhat off handedly at a press conference to a red line for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. And for himself and. A red line for us is. We start saying. A whole bunch chemical weapons moving around -- being -- -- that would change my calculus that would change my question. Then came August 21 this year and the terrible images the unspeakable suffering the -- children. The Red Line the US and its allies believe has been crossed Obama's calculus would now change but how now. When dictators commit atrocities. They depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures paid for memory. But these things -- the facts cannot be denied. Tonight he sought to explain his sometimes confusing leadership on this issue America's not the world's policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe. And it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But -- with modest effort and risk. We can stop children from being gassed to death. And thereby make our own children safer over the long run. I believe we should act. Syria meanwhile government troops continue to bombard rebel positions in the suburbs of Damascus. And Bashar Al Assad. He was winning the day putting the US president on the wrong diplomatic footing. Again he is a strong survivor but his strength is deceptive he doesn't look like your typical ruthless tyrant. -- voted for the -- -- that has been lost. But you don't feel guilty that soft listing voice no government can -- wouldn't keep its people and its. If -- buddy Chris because of the week chin. Sure doesn't look like this -- Or this guy. -- little -- yes dad but while other Arab Dictators are toppled dead or both Bashar Al Assad has proven to be far more tenacious wiley. Maddeningly successful -- US officials guest during this high stakes to a to have your long showdown. With Barack Obama. I have no doubt will be Asad regime and -- discover. That the forces of change cannot be reversed. As human dignity cannot be denied -- will leave power. It's not a question of if but when. We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists the world is watching we will hold you accountable. Yet here facades still lives taunting the American public in his interview this week with Charlie rose's PBS. Nobody expected to have until September for you cannot expect it is difficult for anyone continuous going to and if they -- video -- everything's on the brink of exposure. Draft picks pick of -- President Obama tonight hardly mentioned his adversary in steady tried to explain why he believes military action is necessary but then. He hit the pause button again embracing a new Russian proposal to bring -- -- chemical weapons under international control. This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons. Without the use of force. Particularly because Russia is one of -- -- strongest balance. So in the end this was not so much a case for war it was a plea for understanding or support. And four time our ideals. And principles. As well as our national security are at stake insert. Along with our leadership -- world where we seek to ensure. That the worst weapons will never be used. It's a tough sell in America and around the world the next steps now are diplomatic as the United States Russia and other powers. Try to hammer out a deal at the UN. That will verifiably. Stripped -- out of his chemical weapons. That's unfamiliar. This crisis is far from --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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