Two days after former President Bill Clinton warned President Obama that he’d look like a “total wuss” if he based his foreign policy decisions on polls, the White House declared that red line had been crossed on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said in a statement.
“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has. Our decision making has already been guided by the April intelligence assessment and by the regime’s escalation of horrific violence against its citizens.”
However, on a subsequent call with reporters, Rhodes was vague about what action might be taken and even said “we believe Bashar Assad can be a part of the future of Syria” — hoping for a negotiated political settlement despite his use of sarin on his people.
Clinton said at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Manhattan on Tuesday night that he didn’t “mean that a leader should go out of his way or her way to do the unpopular thing,” according to Politico, who reported on the closed-press event. “I simply mean when people are telling you ‘no’ in these situations, very often what they’re doing is flashing a giant yellow light and saying, ‘For God’s sakes, be careful, tell us what you’re doing, think this through, be careful.”
“The president makes a decision about the implementation of national security options based on our national security interests, not on, you know, what might satisfy critics at any given moment about a policy,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney shot back at the daily briefing today.
Rhodes said “the intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete.”