GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — President Barack Obama should either oust Syrian President Bashar Assad or not bother getting involved in the civil-war torn Middle Eastern nation, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Michigan audience Tuesday.
Rumsfeld spoke in response to a question during a speech at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.
The 81-year-old served as defense secretary under Ford and President George W. Bush.
Rumsfeld says if the U.S. defers action until the United Nations gives the green light, it means the U.S. “won’t do anything” unless Russian President Vladimir Putin agrees.
“The Chinese and the Russians are supporting the use of chemical weapons” with their opposition to intervention, he said.
Rumsfeld dismissed the idea that Obama was obligated to go to Congress before attacking Syria.
“The debate about whether the president has the authority to use force is silly,” he said. “When was the last time war was declared? It was World War II. You can’t have 535 members of Congress making decisions that a commander in chief needs to make. You just can’t do it. It doesn’t work.”
Earlier, Rumsfeld told MLive.com that Obama lost a lot of credibility through indecisiveness in responding to the killing last year of America’s Libyan ambassador.
A militant attack Sept. 11, 2012, on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
“You can’t be persuasive unless you’re believable,” Rumsfeld said. “To the extent that a leader says things that in a week or two or three turn out to not be the case — if a leader does that they lose credibility.
“It seems to me that what the people in the White House need to do is recognize that they’ve lost a good deal of credibility and that’s harmful. What they need to do is get people in the room to find out what ground truth is and make sure they’re standing on a piece of concrete and not mush.”
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