Wow. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is on a tear. Not only is he blaming President Obama for botching Iraq by pulling out all our troops, but in a new interview the Katie Couric of Yahoo News, he charges that Obama squandered “the most important thing” he possesses: the credibility of the United States.
I can tell you that this is particularly damning because Panetta, who is promoting his memoir, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, is regarded in on both sides of the aisle Washington as a relentlessly straight shooter, efficient operator, and smart guy. He is one of the most respected men in town, which is why Bill Clinton made him his chief of staff when his White House was in turmoil in 1994 and Obama made him CIA director and then Pentagon chief.
Panetta told Couric:
The president of the United States in the commander in chief. The most important thing the president has is the credibility of our word. That carries an awful lot . . .
When he drew the red line in Syria . . . then, I think, the credibility of the United States is on the line. So once they used chemical weapons and 1400 people – men women and 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.
Not doing that . . . 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.
In a separate interview on CNN, Panetta said Obama “never really came to a decision” about whether to arm the Syrian rebels:
I think it basically sat there for a while and and the got to the point where everybody just kind of assumed it was not going to happen.