W.H. defends Syria strike: "We learned our lesson" in Iraq

(CBS News) The United States "learned our lesson" in Iraq, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on "Face the Nation," making the case for why a limited military strike in Syria won't escalate into a repeat of the nearly nine-year war.

"The president opposed Iraq because he knew it was an inchoate mission with unplanned for consequences, unbudgeted for costs, and we saw the result of that," McDonough said. "And that's why the president undertook the effort that he did with our military leadership to end that war."

Lawmakers remain split as they head into a vote this week on whether to approve President Obama's request for limited military involvement in Syria amid mounting evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own people. Concern about engaging in the country's two-year-old civil war is "understandable," McDonough said

"It is important to recognize that we need to be disciplined to not allow the mission to creep, not allow ourselves to be pulled into the middle of this," McDonough said. "We're not talking about government, we're not talking about occupation... we're talking about very consequential, targeted action to reinforce a prohibition against these weapons."

McDonough said the administration is "working this very aggressively" in Congress - "this is not an empty exercise." But he has "every confidence" that given the intelligence - and video of the attack, which killed almost 1,500 civilians - they'll muster enough support: "If they want to hold Assad to account for carrying out this attack using poison gasses, chemical weapons to kill upwards of 400 children," he said, "then they have to vote yes on this resolution."

Mr. Obama will make his final plea for military action in Syria with remarks to the nation Tuesday at 9 p.m.

  • lindseyboerma.jpg
    Lindsey Boerma On Twitter»

    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.