Ouch. I can’t imagine that this is comforting for the former president to hear. But two Obama-era officials are speaking out and asserting that Barack Obama made the world a more dangerous place to live than it was when he assumed office.
Barry Pavel and Gary Samore both spent years working in the Obama administration’s foreign policy departmentm and both men now say that the former president’s inaction left the world more unstable and dangerous.
Speaking to Fox News, Pavel, who was the senior director for defense policy and strategy on the U.S. National Security Council staff, said:
I think he left a more dangerous world. In Syria, a major mistake was treating it like a humanitarian crisis, when it was a major national security crisis that has caused destabilization on our closest allies in Europe. Syria has been a source of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, and future attacks. I worry about that very much.
Pavel argues that the world watched as Syria and Russia acted provocatively and illegally and noticed when President Obama chose inaction and silence as his favored methods of response. What the world learned from Obama’s dereliction of duty was that aggressive behavior by foreign powers would no longer be challenged by the world’s premier military power, and everyone was worse off for it.
“Potential adversaries know we had the capability, but not the will” to strike out at aggressive actions by certain nations against their neighbors or their own people, Pavel, who is director at Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council, said. “Because they knew that the Obama administration would never use military force for any purpose, they felt free to conduct their coercive actions in the South China Seas, the Russians went into Iran and Syria and North Korea accelerated their nuclear arms program.”
Pavel called it unfathomable that it wasn’t until this year that U.S. troops arrived in Europe to deter Russia from a repeat of its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“That should have been done in 2014,” he said. “We could have reinforced NATO to reassure our allies that we had their back, or we could have given the sovereign country under attack from Russia legitimate defensive weapons.”
Gary Samore concurs with his former colleague. Samore who served for four years as Obama’s White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, argued that while a softer response was the right way to go with Iran, it was counterproductive to in the case of Russia and Syria. Samore also praised Donald Trump’s decision to strike Syria for using chemical weapons against their civilian population. “I applaud Trump. It was the kind of strike that Obama was planning – a limited military attack against the airfields in order to deter [Syrian Pres. Bashar al] Assad from carrying out additional chemical weapons attacks, but he decided not to use it. Obama made a huge mistake by saying he was going to go to Congress for authorization, it turned out he did not have the votes. Trump was very smart to do it without congressional support,” Samore said.
The two men are not the first Obama officials to criticize their former boss while praising his successor. Just last week, in the pages of the New York Times, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, argued that Trump is handling the Russians better than Obama ever did. “For me, this tragedy underscores the dangers of trying to do deals with dictators without a comprehensive, invasive and permanent inspection regime,” McFaul said. “It also shows the limits of doing deals with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. Surely, the Russians must have known about these chemical weapons.”
Cross-posted at Constitution.com