Let’s give the White House and President Obama, personally, credit for blocking the hawks in his administration from going to war in Syria.
Last week, we learned that Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus, now thankfully pursuing other opportunities and spending more time with their families, had cooked up a plan to arm and train the ragtag Syrian rebels, thus getting the United States directly involved in that horrible civil war.
Now we learn that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs—both of whom are about to join Clinton and Petraeus in the private sector—also backed the Clinton-Petraeus plan,
Who was against it? Obama.
Here’s how The New York Times reports the bombshell revelation, which emerged at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing with Panetta and Dempsey, under questioning from the invariably pro-war John McCain:
Did the Pentagon, Mr. McCain continued, support the recommendation by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus “that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Did you support that?”
“We did,” Mr. Panetta said.
“You did support that,” Mr. McCain said.
“We did,” General Dempsey added.
Despite the formidable coalition of Panetta, Clinton, Petraeus, and Dempsey—and no doubt Susan Rice was in there punching, too—Obama nixed the idea.
Putting on his most exasperated, high-dudgeon face, McCain squawked that Obama had “overruled the senior leaders of his own national security team, who were in unanimous agreement that America needs to take greater action to change the military balance of power in Syria.”
It’s impossible to overstate how unusual or important this is. It is a key signal that Obama stood up to the generals, the hawks, the Pentagon and the neoconservatives—who are, of course, blasting away at Obama for abandoning Syria.
A footnote: We ought to thank Paula Broadwell and the love triangle involving her, a Florida socialite, and the ex-CIA director, which helped push the plot for war in Syria into the trash can. As the Times notes:
When Mr. Petraeus resigned because of an extramarital affair and Mrs. Clinton suffered a concussion, missing weeks of work, the issue was shelved.
Still, it was Obama’s decision to kill the idea:
Neither Mr. Panetta nor General Dempsey explained why President Obama did not heed their recommendation. But senior American officials have said that the White House was worried about the risks of becoming more deeply involved in the Syria crisis, including the possibility that weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Let’s hope it stays killed. Are you listening, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan?