“I don’t think any of us should regret the fact that we got 1,300 tons of chemical weapons out of Syria.”
President Obama and the infamous “red line” he drew on chemical weapons use by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad are Exhibit A in what detractors call Obama’s feckless foreign policy and American weakness. But to Derek Chollet, former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs and former special assistant to President Obama and senior director for strategic planning of the National Security Council staff, the opposite is true.
“I don’t see how getting Syria to get rid of 1,300 tons of chemical weapons peacefully shows that we’re weak,” Chollet told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “My view at the time [was] that’s what great powers do actually. You get people to do things without having to use force.” Chollet, now a counselor and senior adviser for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund, goes on to talk about how the red-line situation with Syria has “so many parallels to the Iraq War.”
Just as Jeffrey Goldberg explained “The Obama Doctrine” in his epic examination of the president’s foreign policy in the Atlantic magazine last spring, Chollet defends his former boss’s decisions in this interview and in his book “The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World.” And when it comes to President-elect Donald Trump, the Democratic foreign policy maven surprised me when he said Obama’s successor has made some Cabinet picks that “give me confidence.”
Listen to the podcast to find out who they are, why despite that confidence Chollet thinks it will be “harder for us to be a constructive partner of others in trying to solve problems abroad” and what he would say to his 9-year-old son on Inauguration Day if he asked, “Daddy, are we going to be okay with this president?”