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Both Panetta And Gates Criticize Obama On Syria

From an unfazed New York Times:

Former Defense Secretaries Criticize Obama on Syria

By THOM SHANKER and LAUREN D’AVOLIO | September 18, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s first two defense secretaries publicly questioned the administration’s handling of the Syrian crisis on Tuesday night and expressed skepticism about whether Russia can broker a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons.

In a joint appearance in Dallas, both former Pentagon chiefs, Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta, were critical of Mr. Obama for asking Congress to authorize the use of force against Syria in retaliation over its use of chemical weapons. But they disagreed on whether military action would be an effective response. Mr. Gates said Mr. Obama’s proposed military strike was a mistake, while Mr. Panetta said it was a mistake not to carry out an attack.

“My bottom line is that I believe that to blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple days, to underscore or validate a point or a principle, is not a strategy,” Mr. Gates said during a forum at Southern Methodist University. “If we launch a military attack, in the eyes of a lot of people we become the villain instead of Assad,” he added, referring to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria

“Haven’t Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya taught us something about the unintended consequences of military action once it’s launched?” Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Panetta, also speaking at the forum, said the president should have kept his word after he had pledged action if Syria used chemical weapons.

“When the president of the United States draws a red line, the credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word,” Mr. Panetta said.

“Once the president came to that conclusion, then he should have directed limited action, going after Assad, to make very clear to the world that when we draw a line and we give our word,” then “we back it up,” Mr. Panetta said….

And Panetta is the lefty from Santa Cruz!

Another former high-ranking Obama administration official, Michael J. Morell, who recently retired as the deputy director of the C.I.A., also expressed skepticism about the negotiations brokered by Russia.

“I think this is the Syrians playing for time,” Mr. Morell told Foreign Policy magazine in an interview published Tuesday on its Web site. “I do not believe that they would seriously consider giving up their chemical weapons.”

Mr. Gates said he doubted whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was sincere in his efforts to broker a deal, and said he was skeptical that the Syrian government would disarm. He said it was absurd that Syria needed days or weeks to identify the location and size of its chemical weapons arsenal, and he suggested that the timetable should be an ultimatum of 48 hours.

When asked whether the West should trust Mr. Putin, Mr. Gates said, “Are you kidding me?”

Which is probably the most succinct criticism of Obama’s decision to date.

He advocated identifying credible partners within the Syrian opposition and increasing support, including weapons — but not surface-to-air missiles, which could be seized by militants for terrorist acts against civilian aviation.

He also supported a strategy of sanctions that labeled members of the Assad government as war criminals, with the threat of arrest if they left Syria, and suggested sanctions on Assad family members living or studying overseas, including on their financial holdings. Such pressure might prompt some in the inner circle to negotiate an end to the civil war, Mr. Gates said.

Although Mr. Gates said that any unilateral military action against Syria would be a mistake, he also said it was unwise for the president to have sought Congressional authorization to use force, because of the risk to presidential prestige if he was rebuffed.

If Congress voted no, “it would weaken him,” Mr. Gates said. “It would weaken our country. It would weaken us in the eyes of our allies, as well as our adversaries around the world.”

Under questioning from the moderator, David Gergen, who advised four presidents and is now on the faculty at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, both former secretaries said that American credibility on Syria was essential to enduring efforts to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.

“Iran is paying very close attention to what we’re doing,” Mr. Panetta said. “There’s no question in my mind they’re looking at the situation, and what they are seeing right now is an element of weakness.”

Mr. Panetta said that the president “has to retain the responsibility and the authority on this issue,” and that it was wrong to “subcontract” the decision to Congress. “Mr. President, this Congress has a hard time agreeing as to what the time of day is,” he said.

Indeed, the whole world is watching, not just Iran. And they have seen how easy it is to roll Obama. It’s too bad the Republicans can’t take note.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, September 19th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Both Panetta And Gates Criticize Obama On Syria”

  1. GetBackJack says:

    Well, that makes it all better.

  2. GetBackJack says:

    Something incredibly bad is happening in our Command Ranks …

  3. canary says:

    So, Mr. Panetta wants the US to fly over Syria and blow up a bunch of stuff when Syria is already doing a pretty good job of it themselves, all because Obama was stopped in the middle of a golf game and beer and told it looks like either Assad is moving chemicals to use them, or Assad is moving chemicals because Islamic terrorists are moving in close to the chemicals. They were moved, but Obama doesn’t remember that red line, or the second red line.

    So, Panetta thinks no matter what came of Obama’s mouth and what the situation was or is presently, our leader should for once keep his word or it will disgrace the US.

    The US already looks like a disgrace. Name one other country with a leader who is on a wild public non-stop celebrity tour of fun and games.

    “When the president of the United States draws a red line, the credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word,” Mr. Panetta said.

    Do a truce like Israel and Palestine are always doing and let everyone wait 7 months til the elections in May, and get a good chance to sum things up and scope things out.

    Let neighboring countries handle it.

    Obama can just do a commercial with all his rapping buddies and liberals singing “All I am saying is give Peace a chance”. Then everyone will feel all cozy and forget about the red line.

  4. canary says:

    Clever Syrians dress and use Caucasian skinned mannequins and dolls as decoys.


    Who’d have guessed Syria is so modern with stores with scantily dressed and posed females.
    Blond wigs had to be removed. No wonder that store was attacked. Should be approx 12 photos.

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