5:44 PM, Sep 8, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Over the weekend, the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt argued that Syria may be “the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy.”
Hiatt contends that Obama managed to convince the American public that doing nothing was “the smart and moral policy.” The way Obama sees it, the United States causes more problems than it solves, and besides there wasn’t much we could do anyway by backing a bunch of rag-tag rebels against Assad and his allies.
And, writes Hiatt:
On those rare occasions when political pressure or the horrors of Syrian suffering threatened to overwhelm any excuse for inaction, he promised action, in statements or White House leaks: training for the opposition, a safe zone on the Turkish border. Once public attention moved on, the plans were abandoned or scaled back to meaningless proportions (training 50 soldiers per year, no action on the Turkish border).
Hiatt also singles out two administration officials who previously advocated for military intervention on behalf of humanitarian principles and have now shown themselves to be hypocrites. “The fact that the woman who wrote the book on genocide, Samantha Power, and the woman who campaigned to bomb Sudan to save the people of Darfur, Susan Rice, could apparently in good conscience stay on as U.N. ambassador and national security adviser, respectively, lent further moral credibility to U.S. abdication.”
But the singularly gruesome achievement, argues Hiatt, is “the anesthetization of U.S. opinion”: Obama made Americans feel good about doing nothing—nothing to help bring down Assad, nothing to support Syrian rebels, nothing to prevent the rise of ISIS, and now nothing to stem the tide of refugees.
It’s a devastating article, and I’d only add to Hiatt’s argument that there is another component to Obama’s Syria policy. Obama decided to steer clear of the Syrian conflict not just to avoid doing anything, but just as importantly, to avoid damaging Iranian interests in Syria. As Obama wrote Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, “the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.” Obama didn’t do anything to bring down Assad because he was afraid it might anger the Syrian president’s patrons in Iran, and getting a nuclear deal with Iran was Obama’s foreign policy priority.
There is plenty that Obama might have done to support Syrian rebels— an opposition he derided as “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists”—without ever risking putting American forces on the ground in Syria. By 2013, all his national security cabinet officials—Leon Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, et al.—argued for supporting Syrian rebel units.
Obama however kept his eyes on the prize: the Iran deal. Same when it came to enforcing the red line he drew against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. No one in their right mind believes that firing missiles on Assad regime facilities was likely to compel the White House to land forces in Syria. Obama’s concern rather was that if the United States signaled that it was no longer protecting Assad it might turn the balance of power against the Syrian regime. But that of course would anger the Iranians, and all Obama wanted was an accommodation with the regime—and now he has one in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
1:15 PM, Jan 18, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama's former defense secretary and former head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said this morning on CNN that we've entered into "a much more dangerous chapter" of the war on terror:
“I don’t think there’s any question. I think what we’re seeing ... is a much more aggressive chapter and a much more dangerous chapter in terms of the war on terrorism,” Panetta told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
11:37 AM, Jan 13, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Back in 2012, I suggested that the Senate use Leon Panetta's confirmation hearing for CIA director to clear up one of Washington's more interesting media mysteries—who leaked Daniel Patrick Moynihan's authorship of controversial memo that used the phrase "benign neglect" in reference to the black community.
1:52 PM, Oct 23, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, the Washington Post had a lengthy report on how former CIA director Leon Panetta was sending out copies of his book nearly a month before it cleared the CIA's internal revue process to ensure that no sensitive national security information was being revealed. According to the Post, Panetta clashed with his former agency repeatedly throughout the process.
11:32 AM, Oct 12, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama's former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, called for a White House shake-up this morning on CBS:
Hosted by Michael Graham.1:35 PM, Oct 8, 2014 • By TWS PODCAST
The WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on the latest on the airstrikes against ISIS and the efforts to discredit Leon Panetta after he criticized the White House on foreign policy in his new book.
7:31 AM, Oct 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A former spokesman for President Barack Obama, Bill Burton, went on CNN last night to unload on the president's former defense secretary and former CIA director, Leon Panetta. Burton is upset about some of the things Panetta wrote in his memoir, which hit shelves yesterday, and called the long-time public servant "sad," "dishonorable," "small and petty."
1:12 PM, Oct 7, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama's former defense secretary and CIA chief, Leon Panetta, told MSNBC today that he knew the Benghazi attack was a "terrorist attack" right away:
"I didn't have any specific information, but the fact was: when you bring grenade launchers to a demonstration, there's something else going on," said Panetta. "And I just, from the very beginning, sensed that this was an attack -- this was a terrorist attack on our compound."
10:11 AM, Aug 31, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Barack Obama's former defense secretary, Leon Panetta, says the president has a "responsibility" to act in Syria.
10:09 AM, Jul 22, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Washington D.C. is big on tradition, and one of those traditions involves official portraits of top government officials. The Defense Department just awarded a $31,200 contract (frame included) to Portraits, Inc. for an official portrait of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:
Week in review Podcast with Bill Kristol, Hosted by Michael Graham.3:42 PM, Feb 8, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with Bill Kristol hosted by Michael Graham:
8:55 AM, Feb 8, 2013 • By CHRISTOPHER HARMER
America’s military presence in the Persian Gulf serves as deterrence to Iran, reassures our increasingly nervous Arab partners, maintains peace, offers stability to our ally Israel, and has many other benefits.
2:29 PM, Feb 7, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The White House left Ambassador Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith on their own on September 11 in Benghazi. That is the upshot of today’s Capitol Hill hearing featuring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.