Panetta Spills the Beans on Obama's Foreign Policy

Leon Panetta, the former Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense for President Obama, criticizes his former boss in his just released memoir. Where Gates and Clinton both offered minor criticisms of the president in their books, Panetta takes the award for the most scathing in Worthy Fights. Central to Panetta’s views of Obama are that the latter is prone to taking half steps and hesitating in foreign matters, both which have contributed to our deteriorating position internationally. The picture that Panetta paints is one that has been spoken of for some time, that policy in the White House is highly political and that Obama is more concerned with what his personal advisors say than those of cabinet members. To hear this from someone as senior Panetta though is shocking and reveals an administration that is lost in foreign policy.

Let's start with Iraq where politics trumped reality. Panetta notes that Obama was warned by both civilian and military advisors that a residual force should be maintained in Iraq under a status of forces agreement. The President though wanted a quick exit as he did promise along the campaign trail to bring the troops home. Well he did and in doing so in an expedient manner, sacrificed working towards a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. We left a country that in reality was not ready to defend itself from both internal and foreign enemies all the while selling to the American public the idea that we left behind a stable, functioning Iraq. Fast forward to today where the military is back in Iraq bombing the savage radicals who've managed to walk over the Iraqi military (mind you the president said it was fully capable when we departed) and overrun the northern part of the country.

What about Syria where a brutal civil war has dragged on for well over three years and which saw the use of chemical weapons? Remember, President Obama drew a "red line" warning Syria that the U.S. would intervene if chemical weapons were used. Chemical weapons were used and the president instead of taking action waffled and ultimately against the advice of his senior security advisors, failed to intervene militarily. The "red line" threat wasn't some talking point used once or taken out of context, it was repeatedly mentioned by the president and was interpreted as policy. In failing to act in Syria Panetta argues that Obama damaged U.S. credibility and he's absolutely correct. Regardless of the Russian-brokered deal to rid Syria of chemical weapons, the president failed to act on his very vocal policy and the entire world saw that, especially those who stood to gain the most from U.S. inaction.

Panetta launches other attacks on Obama and his foreign policy including mentioning that he is "governing by crisis instead of leadership." Panetta does slam Obama for relying more on his personal advisors than Cabinet Secretaries or agency heads. Repeatedly it is mentioned that White House advisors who have no accountability such as the National Security Advisor had more national security influence than Panetta himself who was the Secretary of Defense. Essentially the president surrounded himself with and took advice from those who were closest to his line of thought, basically yes-men. It wasn't just civilian advisors Obama dismissed but repeatedly military commanders whose opinions were discarded because they didn't fit into his political agenda.

Panetta's book basically says what many have already thought; President Obama in dictating policy relies more on those who back his political agenda than those who realistically want to address a situation. As a result our foreign policy changes to meet political goals and opinion polls. Rather than lay out a central foreign policy, this administration prefers ambiguity. This isn't leadership nor is this smart politics. This isn't even pragmatic foreign policy, it's just careless recklessness.

Posted by SPBrooker at October 20, 2014 4:03 PM
Comment #384480

SPB, what you see as “careless recklessness” some of us see as careful deliberate decisions used with caution and forethought. For “careless recklessness” you need to refer to the GWB administration’s approach to foreign policy. We will be living with the disasters of that “careless recklessness” for a long time to come.

This may come as some surprise to you but I/we didn’t elect Leon Panetta to set foreign policy, we didn’t elect Gates to set foreign policy, we also didn’t elect Hillary Clinton to set foreign policy, but we may some day soon. President Obama was elected to set foreign policy and some of us like the results that he has obtained, very much so. The world is not made of perfection however and there is much to be desired when it comes to the aspiration of a world that has no turmoil, strife, poverty, starvation or tyranny. We continue to strive to reach this goal, with President Obama’s leadership, although we are all aware that the goal can never truly be attained.

Posted by: Speak4all at October 21, 2014 2:30 PM
Comment #384481

Many people are saying the U.S. shouldn’t be the policeman of the world. Syria is an example of that. The opinion of many was to stay out of Syria and we did just that at the expense of Obama’s reputation. I think he did the right thing by staying out of it, but I resent the numerous times on WatchBlog where Obama supporters have given Obama credit for the progress made in that case. They shouldn’t be able to get away with saying Obama showed restraint and then say Obama is responsible for the outcome.

We need more people like Pantetta that speak up and not sugar coat to protect the party/good Democrat. (good Democrat, or Democratic, refers to one putting party agenda before patriotism)

Posted by: Weary Willie at October 21, 2014 4:39 PM
Comment #384485

Panetta is not the only one bailing on Obama. Obama is toast…finis…a has been…lame duck…whatever… The game is now “PROTECT HILLARY” at all costs. Liberals on WB haven’t got the message yet. The are still carrying Obama’s water.

Posted by: George at October 21, 2014 8:16 PM
Comment #384486

Panetta is not the only one bailing on Obama. Obama is toast…finis…a has been…lame duck…whatever… The game is now “PROTECT HILLARY” at all costs. Liberals on WB haven’t got the message yet. The are still carrying Obama’s water.

Posted by: George at October 21, 2014 8:16 PM
Comment #384503

A Senate Intelligence Committee report on ‘excesses’ during the Bush administration- renditions, secret prisons, torture- was supposed to be released recently, but it was so heavily redacted, it could not even be read. The Obama administration does NOT want this to be released, and they have been stalling. In this case, the Obama administration might be hoping a Republican Senate will call off dogs. The last thing Obama wants to do is spend his last two years in office prosecuting Bush officials for war crimes. It would just depress everybody… Hard to pretend we’re the good guys, and then let this stuff get out there.

So the first hope is to stall, and let the GOP squash the report. The next line of defense is NOT to blame the Bush administration. That means very unpleasant trials, pardons, and two years with the nation focused on the past.

The plan it to pin it on the CIA.

And Panetta does not like that at all.

Posted by: phx8 at October 23, 2014 3:27 PM
Comment #384510


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Comment #384511

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