United States Former Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel said the government paved a way for the rise of DAESH and the chaos of the last two years by "squandering" the five-year stretch from 2008-2013.
The credibility of the White House was hurt through the government’s inability to follow through on Obama’s “red line” declaration, Hagel said.
Hagel stepped down after serving two years in the Obama administration, admitting Obama’s inner circle forced him out.
Hagel had many disagreements with the White House and the Syrian crisis was one of them.
Upon chemical weapons being used on civilians of a Damascus suburb in 2013, Hagel advocated intervention in Syria for humanitarian reasons.
Following the deadly chemical attack that brutally killed 1,500 victims, president Obama said the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” for the US and that Washington would take action if UN experts found evidence of such use, but Obama failed to take any action.
When the US president says something, there must be a follow through, Hagel said.
According to Hagel, the statement “Assad must go” had paralyzed US policy in Syria.
“Assad was never our enemy. A brutal dictator? Yes. There are a lot of brutal dictators out there, we should have learned from Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. You can take a brutal dictator out but better understand what you may get in return. We never asked the question what will come next, after Assad.”
During an event hosted by the National Committee on US-China Relations, he urged politicians to lean more on the advice of defence officials.
“I would say as someone who has walked on both sides of the street, the political side and the administration side, politicians have to listen more to our military. And I don’t mean changing the constitution. I mean listen to our military. They get it better than most politicians on things like this. And some of the finest statesmen I’ve ever met in my life are in military uniform,” he added.
Hagel suggested that working with regional powers like Russia and Iran is crucial on bringing stability into Syria and the Middle East.
In a recent interview, Hagel slammed the White House National Security team for keeping too many people in the president’s inner circle and for holding long meetings that went nowhere.
The White house has a tendency of dominating all administration departments, which “cuts into the fabric of governing” because it disrupts the ability of department heads and administration agencies to deliberate. Micromanagement and recycling too many people within the administration causes “chaos”, he said in frustration.
Amongst the frustration, Hagel credited his former boss for preventing the US from being dragged into regional wars, particularly the crisis in Ukraine.
"The US would not wage war against Russia over Crimea, the majority of the Crimean population is Russian and the crisis in Ukraine was a result of corruption by the government in Kiev, but the US will not hesitate to take action if Russia tries to invade any NATO member country in Eastern Europe," he added.
Responding to a question regarding Donald Trump being on the hot seat for anti-Muslim remarks, Hagel urged all candidates, on both sides, to focus on unifying the US rather than dividing.
"Not all candidates, but most of them, especially the ones who are leading, have unfortunately been focused on dividing America,” he said.
“That is dangerous. That is not who we are.”