It is not only that President Obama has so bungled his handling of Syria that even the media are unable to whitewash it, but neither are the president’s first two defense secretaries, Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. The New York Times reports that during a forum in Dallas, both of Obama’s former Cabinet officials blistered Obama for backing off his redline, trusting Russia to disarm Syria, and displaying weakness to Iran:
“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.
Mr. Gates expressed doubts that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was sincere in his efforts to negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, just as he was skeptical that the Syrian regime would disarm. For example, he said it was absurd that Syria needed days or weeks to identify the location and size of its chemical weapons arsenal — and suggested that the timetable should be an ultimatum of 48 hours.
When he was asked whether the West should trust Mr. Putin, Mr. Gates said, “Are you kidding me?”
Panetta added that Iran is watching and “what they are seeing right now is an element of weakness.”
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