March 7, 2012
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pushing back against fresh demands for U.S. military involvement in Syria.
Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it "doesn't make sense" for the U.S. to "take unilateral action right now." When it comes to advising President Barack Obama to send U.S. forces, Panetta says, he has to "make very sure we know what the mission is" -- and what the price will be.
The panel's top Republican, John McCain, this week urged the U.S. to lead airstrikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. Two other senators are also calling for the U.S. military to step in on behalf of Syrian rebels.
McCain told Panetta today that with an estimated 7,500 dead in Syria, the U.S. needs to show the kind of leadership that Bill Clinton displayed during the Bosnian war and that Obama eventually showed on Libya last year.
But Panetta said the situation in Syria "has no simple answers."
The administration has been trying to use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power.