Inconvenient Former Defense Secretaries

Robert Gates has already spoken out against the Obama administration’s policy on combating ISIL, but you would expect those kinds of partisan potshots from a Republican, wouldn’t you? I mean, it’s not like any Democratic national security grandee would criticize the president’s approach, right?



Two defense secretaries who previously served under President Obama are now criticizing his decisions in countering the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

In a new interview with “CBS Evening News,” former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says ISIS emerged as a threat because the US pulled out of Iraq too soon and became involved in Syria too late.

“I really thought that it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Panetta, who served as defense secretary and director of central intelligence under Obama, told CBS in a short clip of a full interview to air on “60 Minutes.”

Panetta tells reporter Scott Pelley the entire national security team was unanimous in urging the president to do more to support rebels who, fighting against Bashar al-Assad in Syria at that time, had begun a civil war that now continues to rage more than three years later.

“The real key was how can we develop a leadership group among the opposition that would be able to take control. And my view was to have leverage to do that, we would have to provide the weapons and the training in order for them to really be willing to work with us in that effort.”

To be entirely fair to the president and his administration, I have long been a skeptic of American military action in Syria, but I certainly agree with Panetta that we pulled out of Iraq too soon. I suppose that someday, it might dawn on the Obama administration that leaving Iraq before American national security goals were fully met and the Iraqis were fully able to stand up on their own two feet helped make it necessary for us to go back in, but it doesn’t look like the administration will be having the epiphanies I want it to have anytime soon.

Incidentally, let’s all remember that during the 2012 presidential campaign, Team Obama attacked Mitt Romney for supposedly stating that “we should still have troops in Iraq.” As far as I am concerned, Romney should completely plead guilty to the charge. History has vindicated the view the president ascribed to him, and no less a non-Republican than Leon Panetta would say as much.

%d bloggers like this: