Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the Syrian situation on “Fox News Sunday” in the wake of President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Cheney suggested the United States missed its opportunity, and was unsure if al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons justified U.S. involvement if the deaths of 93,000 people already killed in the conflict did not justify it.
“I don’t think it’s been well handled,” Cheney said. “I will be the first to admit it’s a complex, difficult situation. I frankly think John McCain has it just about right. John and I don’t always agree on everything. We have had our debates over the years but I think John has pretty well nailed it. Now we are to the point where it’s hard to understand that it’s the use of chemical weapons that triggered this result. As John said the other day, well, there were 93,000 people killed not affected by chemical weapons. Where was the concern then? It’s not clear to me what the mission is here, or they understand the mission.”
“Is it strictly humanitarian?” he continued. “Is it geo-strategic? Does the United States have a vested interest in the outcome? Are we potentially involved in some kind of proxy war with the Soviets or the Russians, excuse me, who are supporting Assad? I think it is important that Assad go down. I think — my instinct would have been to support the opposition sooner. You had an opportunity, if you cared about it, if it was in fact in the national interest. You had an opportunity earlier to provide support without having to get American forces directly involved and they took a pass. Now they are going to do it. But the question is whether or not they are a day late and a dollar short.”
Cheney endorsed the idea of a no-fly zone, but said that move by the United States would present problems and the question should be asked if it is in our national interests to get that involved.
“Jack Keane said the other day on the network … that from a military standpoint of being able to accomplish something objectively that might well provide success, the no-fly zone, is what he would recommend,” Cheney said. “That’s not without potential cost, obviously. Syria has a fairly sophisticated anti-air capability, sophisticated ground-to-air missiles. So it’s a problem. But again, I think it’s important for the administration to come back and specify what is the U.S. national interest here? And seems to be the only reason you’re going is now you have evidence that they used chemical weapons and killed 150 people with chemical weapons, is that our national interest? And I’m not sure they got it straight in their own minds what our objective is.”