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Media, former defense chiefs blast Obama's Syria policy   13-09-24 15:42

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has always had his detractors among conservative media and the Republican Party (GOP), but now his former employees as well as mainstream media are chiming in, hammering him over his Syria policy.

In later August, Obama threatened to strike Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 by the Syrian government, but added that he would first seek Congress' approval. However, Russia brokered a deal on Sept. 14 to put Syria's chemical arms under international control for destruction by mid- 2014.

With the dust not yet settled, it remains unknown weather the plan will work, and there is no plan B if the current plan fails.

Joining critics, Obama's first two defense secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, on Wednesday upbraided their former boss for his handling of the Syria crisis.

"To blow a bunch of stuff up over a couple not a strategy," Gates said in a speech in Dallas, Texas. Speaking at the same event, Panetta also expressed criticism, saying Obama should have backed up his "red line" rhetoric with action, arguing that the "credibility of this country is dependent on him backing up his word."

Obama previously warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the use of chemical weapons, saying this would be a "red line" that will lead to direct U.S. intervention.

Media criticism of Obama is also widening, and underscores the country's affliction with Iraq syndrome - a desire to avoid another Middle East conflict perceived to have little to do with U. S. national security interests.

U.S. media has at times been critical of the president, most notably after news broke of U.S. government agencies monitoring journalists. But outside of GOP critics and conservative media outlets, rarely has the criticism been so scathing.

Time magazine, for example, whose top editor Richard Stengel is stepping down for a position in the Obama administration, ran a searing story earlier this month trashing the president's Syria policy.

The magazine opined that Obama "willingly jumped into a bear trap of his own creation. In the process, he has damaged his presidency and weakened the nation's standing in the world."

The author of the article argued that Obama's handling of Syria has been "one of the more stunning and inexplicable displays of presidential incompetence that I've ever witnessed."

The Economist, a centrist publication out of London with a large U.S. readership, wrote that the deal with Russia is "flimsy because it will be so hard to enforce," and that "America's credibility as an ally has been undermined."

"Whereas Mr. (Vladimir) Putin has stood firmly by Mr. Assad, even while 100,000 people have perished, the West has proved an inconstant friend to the opposition," the magazine wrote in this month's print edition.

Still, it remains to be seen whether media criticism will continue, as Friday saw Assad meet his first deadline in the chemical weapons disarming process, and media may cut the president some slack if the plan continues on the right track.

The New York Times recently ran a story that quoted Obama administration officials as saying that Obama's policy on Syria has been nimble and flexible, taking into consideration the many twists and turns in a complex situation.

"All the critics would like this to be easily choreographed, a straight line and end the way they'd all individually like it to end," former White House advisor David Plouffe told the New York Times in a recent interview.

"That's not the way the world works for sure, especially in a situation like this. I think it speaks to his strength, which is that he's willing to take in new information," Plouffe said.

But others said the president's Syria policy leaves many holes unplugged.

"Obama's handling of the Syria crisis demonstrates a high degree of amateurism," Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation, told Xinhua. "And that was reflected from the start at the issuing of a 'red line' without thinking it through."

TITLE: Media, former defense chiefs blast Obama's Syria policy
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