But there is a divide in the White House on how forcefully to respond, although an official tells me if there is a strike, it must be timely, done soon enough to prevent another chemical attack.
The White House does not want to act alone. U.S. officials are back channeling through the U.N. to see if Russia could be convinced to agree to a resolution. Remember, Russia has veto power at the security counsel.
If there's no U.N. authorization, the United States would lead any possible strike. But one senior official tells me, quote, "we do not want to do anything on our own. U.S. allies must commit both resources and political will."
We'll have more from here in Washington in a few moments. But first let's go back to the region -- Martha.
RADDATZ: Thanks, Jon.
Let's bring in Colonel Steve Ganyard, a veteran fighter pilot and former Marine Corps commander who flew combat missions in the Gulf War and also saw the policy side of these decisions as a deputy secretary of state.
Welcome, Colonel Ganyard .
I want to get right to the question about these possible cruise missile strikes. The White House has made very clear there will be no boots on the ground. So how would these cruise missile strikes work out of the Mediterranean?
GANYARD: There are a couple ways it could be done, Martha. One is by launching these cruise missiles from ships at sea that would be out in the eastern Mediterranean or they can be launched from submarines. We're got to remember what a cruise missile is, it's a long, 20-foot sort of flying torpedo, and is has wings on it, and a little jet engine that allows it to fly at low altitudes over the sea.
It can fly through mountain canyons and hit with accuracies where you can pick third window on the left. So that kind of accurate is good. But we also have to remember that they're small warheads, and there are not a lot of these missiles. And right up front, if it's going to be low-risk, we know that we're going to be prescribed in the amount of military force we can apply.
RADDATZ: One of the things people we have talked to have said is there might be missions with fighter jets. I know you have gone on these kind of missions before. This would be very different because the fighter jets would not actually enter Syrian air space. How does that work? And why wouldn't they?
GANYARD: So the idea is that the Syrians have created this sanctuary where there's surface-to-air missiles. You can think of it as a dome of sanctuary over Syria. The president has said we want low-risk, which really means that we want low-risk to U.S. personnel. So he does not want U.S. aircraft flying into, penetrating that dome that sanctuary that the Syrians have created. And so we will use our aircraft and our bombers to launch glide weapons, standoff weapons from well outside the Syrian surface-to-air missile threat so that our air crews will not be in any danger and can return home safely.
RADDATZ: Let's talk about targets. Obviously this is about chemical weapons. You can't really go after chemical weapons without creating more danger, can you? So talk a little bit about the targets and what the U.S. and whoever joins in could do.