Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continued his criticism of the Obama administration’s policies by telling Yahoo News that the president drawing an unenforced red line on Syria was “damaging” to U.S. credibility.
Panetta said drawing the red line, which was triggered by Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, was “the right thing to do.”
Pulling back from the red line “sent a mixed message, not only to Assad, not only to the Syrians, but [also] to the world,” Panetta said.
“And that is something you do not want to establish in the world, an issue with regard to the credibility of the United States to stand by what we say we’re gonna do.”
Panetta told USA Today in a piece published Monday that the U.S. is facing a “30-year war” with burgeoning terrorist groups including ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and other al-Qaeda affiliates throughout the region.
“There’s a little question mark to, is the United States going to stick this out?” he said of the damaged credibility. “Is the United States going to be there when we need them?”
Panetta’s new book, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, came out today. Vice President Joe Biden has already called the memoir “inappropriate.”
“At least give the guy a chance to get out of office,” Biden said of Panetta’s Obama criticism.
Panetta’s book notes that Obama too often “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader” and sometimes he “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
“Look, I’ve been a guy who’s always been honest,” Panetta told USA Today. “I’ve been honest in politics, honest with the people that I deal with. I’ve been a straight talker. Some people like it; some people don’t like it. But I wasn’t going to write a book that kind of didn’t express what I thought was the case.”
“…My hope is that the president, recognizing that we are at a kind of critical point in his administration, will take the bit in his teeth and will say, ‘We have got to solve these problems.’… I think these next 2 1/2 years will tell us an awful lot about what history has to say about the Obama administration.”
Panetta first served as Obama’s CIA director before moving over to the Pentagon. He retired in 2013, saying he was anxious to return to his walnut farm in Monterey County, Calif.