Former Defense Secretary and CIA head Leon Panetta has continued his recent trend of criticizing President Barack Obama in media interviews, this time saying his bungled Syria “red line” damaged U.S. credibility abroad in a Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric. Panetta opined that once Obama set the Syrian use of chemical weapons as a “red line” for intervention into its civil war, he should have followed through on his threats. (RELATED: Panetta: Obama Should Have Maintained Military Presence in Iraq)
Couric began the discussion by reading an excerpt from his new book “Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace”: “The power of the United States rests on its word… [Syrian President Bashir] Assad’s actions clearly defied President Obama’s warnings; by failing to respond, it sent the wrong message to the world.”
Panetta extrapolated on the passage, laying out how he thought Obama had damaged the U.S.’ credibility.
“Personally, as the United States Commander-in-Chief as the most important thing that the President has is the credibility of his word. That carries an awful lot…
When he drew the red line in Syria… once you drew that line, and he did, then I think the credibility of the United States is on the line. And once they used chemical weapons, and we had proof that they used chemical weapons… and fourteen hundred people– men, women, children– died as a result of using chemical weapons, then it was important for us to stand by our word and go in and do what a commander-in-chief should do.
I think initially they were going to do that, and then they somehow began to pull back. It sent a mixed message, not only to Assad, not only to the Syrians, but to the world. And that is something you do not want to establish in the world: an issue with regards to the credibility of the United States to stand by what we say we’re going to do.”