Bill Clinton told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that Obama risks looking like a “total fool” if he does not do more to help rebels in Syria.
Clinton made the comments during a private discussion at an event hosted by the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Manhattan. Although press were not allowed at the event details of the discussion were leaked to Politico.
From New York Magazine:
Clinton's opinions on Syria came up during a question-and-answer session with McCain. “Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake. I agree with you about this,” Clinton said. “Sometimes it’s just best to get caught trying, as long as you don’t overcommit — like, as long as you don’t make an improvident commitment.” He added, "“I don’t think Syria is necessarily Iraq or Afghanistan — no one has asked us to send any soldiers in there."
Politico doesn't quote the question, but at McCain's urging, Clinton described how he decided to intervene in Kosovo and Bosnia, and suggested that when polls say the public is against foreign intervention, they don't necessarily mean it.
It is remarkable that Kosovo and Bosnia are being mentioned in a discussion about the situation in Syria. As Ed Krayewski has mentioned on this blog before, the situation in Syria is very different to the situation in the Balkans in the early 90s. The risk of our intervention in the Balkans helping jihadists with regional ambitions or further expanding beyond the borders of former Yugoslavia was non-existent.
Aside from the mention of the situation in the Balkans in the early 90s Clinton’s comments about public approval for intervention are also worrying. Even the war in Iraq, as disastrous as it turned out, had public support when it began. However, support for intervention in Syria is low, and it is understandable that Obama, whose administration is in the middle of dealing with numerous scandals and crises, would be hesitant to get more involved in a conflict that does not have public support.