In a video interview with USA Today (embedded below) the day before his book is officially published, Former Obama CIA director and Defense Secretary repeated his charges that the Obama-caused lack of American action created a vacuum which enabled the development of ISIS.
Panetta says he likes and respects President Obama but he was determined to write a book that was "honest," including his high regard for the president on some fronts and his deep concern about his leadership on others.
In the USA Today interview Panetta lays out the Presidential errors which helped ISIS to develop:
- By not pushing the Iraqi government harder to allow a residual U.S. force to remain when troops withdrew in 2011, a deal he says could have been negotiated with more effort. That "created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it's out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed." Islamic State also is known as ISIS and ISIL.
- By rejecting the advice of top aides — including Panetta and then-secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — to begin arming Syrian rebels in 2012. If the U.S. had done so, "I do think we would be in a better position to kind of know whether or not there is some moderate element in the rebel forces that are confronting (Syrian President Bashar) Assad."
- By warning Assad not to use chemical weapons against his
own people, then failing to act when that "red line" was crossed in
2013. Before ordering airstrikes, Obama said he wanted to seek congressional
authorization, which predictably didn't happen.
The reversal cost the United States credibility then and is complicating efforts to enlist international allies now to join a coalition against the Islamic State, Panetta says. "There's a little question mark to, is the United States going to stick this out? Is the United States going to be there when we need them?"
Panetta's words echo those discussed in the Obama administration memoirs of Hillary Clinton, and that of his predecessor at Defense, Bob Gates.
In his book Panetta gives insight into Obama's personality, especially what as seen as his "disengagement" from the political process.
In the book's final chapter, however, he writes that Obama's "most conspicuous weakness" is "a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause." Too often, he "relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader." On occasion, he "avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities."
In the interview, Panetta says he thinks Obama "gets so discouraged by the process" that he sometimes stops fighting.