President Obama’s two former Defense secretaries, Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, on Tuesday criticized his handling of the Syria crisis.
The former Pentagon chiefs said they would not have sought congressional approval to strike Syria after leader Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, crossing Obama’s “red line.”
Obama made a last-second decision to consult lawmakers and then asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote in favor of a diplomatic solution after widespread backlash on Capitol Hill.
Panetta, who also served as Obama’s CIA director, said the president undermined U.S. credibility by not following through with a strike against Assad.
“When the president of the United States draws a red line, the credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word,” Panetta told the audience at an event at Southern Methodist University.
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Gates went even one step further than Panetta with his criticism, telling the Dallas audience that Obama’s promise to only use limited military force was not a coherent strategy.
“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,” Gates said. “If we launch a military attack, in the eyes of a lot of
people, we become the villain instead of Assad.