The Arizona Republican has long called for intervention in Syria, arguing that the conflict is a proxy war pitting the the United States against Russia and Iran, and Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons only intensifies the need to act.
“I think it’s a very tough call, but to do nothing, as I said, would have consequences throughout the world,’’ McCain said Tuesday. “It’s a very difficult game that he’s playing and the stakes are incredibly high."
Members of Congress are set to take up Obama's request for military authorization for a strike in Syria as they return this week from summer recess.
Ahead of Obama's meetings this week, a number of Congressmen said they were opposed to the language in the administration's request, fearing it left the door open for a larger offensive than the "narrow scope" the president has publicly argued in recent days.
Polls show many Americans are opposed to intervention in Syria, or at least putting American lives in danger, after more than a decade of wars in the Middle East.
But McCain warned against a strike that would not go far enough as to cripple the Syrian regime's ability to attack its people.
"To do something that really doesn’t change anything, in other words some token strikes, and then some time later, Bashar Assad uses those chemical weapons again. What then? Go through the same routine?" he said. "You provide the weapons and you take out the air power that is the distinct advantage that Bashar Assad had, you commit to no American troops on the ground, and you can reverse this.’’
The senator, who along with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham met with the president ahead of his Tuesday meeting with Congressional leadership, argued the stakes for the U.S. were higher than just the country's credibility.
"We need to reverse the situation on the battlefield," he said. "It’s an unfair fight. Russian weapons are pouring in, Iranian weapons are pouring in."
"Have no doubt, this is a proxy war, and the Iranians are the ones that will gain or lose by this,” he said.