Former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks in 2011 at The Hudson Institute in Washington. Rumsfeld said the Obama administration's Syria strategy has been 'mindless.' (Mandel Ngan / AFP)
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Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he’s confounded by how the Obama administration has gone about explaining why a strike is in the USA’s national interest.
“There really hasn’t been any indication from the administration as to what our national interest is with respect to this particular situation,” Rumsfeld, secretary of defense when the U.S. attacked Iraq in 2003, said Wednesday evening on the Fox Business Network.
The most important issues in the region, Rumsfeld said, are “Iran’s nuclear program and the relationship between Iran and Syria — the Bashar Assad regime — with respect to funding terrorists that go around killing innocent men, women and children, including Americans.”
Rumsfeld, who under President George W. Bush helped plan and manage the U.S. war in Iraq, also sharply criticized President Obama and his aides’ approach for making clear to the regime that any potential military action would be limited in its focus.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, Obama, who made his opposition to the Iraq War a central part of his 2008 presidential run, said he was not interested in getting involved in an open-ended conflict in Syria.
“The idea of demystifying for the enemy what you’re going to do is mindless,” Rumsfeld said. “I can’t imagine what they’re thinking.”
Obama said Wednesday that he has not yet decided what action he’ll take against the Assad regime, which the administration has concluded deployed chemical weapons on Aug. 21 on the outskirts of Damascus.
But the president suggested he believes limited military action could result in Assad ceasing the use of chemical weapons.
“If, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about,” Obama said. “But if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way — we send a shot across the bow saying, ‘stop doing this’ — that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact ... in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians.”