If the United States takes military action against Syria, it could end up worse off than if it did nothing, says former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.
Washington is abuzz with talk of possible cruise missile attacks after the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed a "red line" set by President Barack Obama a year ago.
Last week was the second time U.S. intelligence has confirmed Syria has used chemical weapons on civilians in the country's civil war. And there was video purporting to show children injured and dying in the latest attack.
Obama's "red line" quote occurred a few months before the 2012 election and was "one of those rhetorical flourishes that the president likes," Bolton said Monday on Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren." "He never thinks through the implications."
Military action, at this point, is "almost unavoidable," Bolton said. In addition to Obama's "red line" being crossed, Secretary of State John Kerry took to the podium Monday to blast the latest actions as a "moral obscenity," which fueled speculation that military action is inevitable.
Any action taken by the administration should be the result of a calculation of what is in America's national interest, Bolton said. The United States should destroy Syria's chemical weapons and kill Assad, who ordered the attacks, he said.
But Obama must act quickly, he added.
"Every day that he waits, every day that he dithers, every day that he looks for some amorphous international approval, gives the Assad regime the chance to move those chemical weapons and hide them," he said.
But even if Obama uses a large military force, the United States could still end up worse off than if he'd done nothing at all, Bolton told Van Susteren.
Obama "has a real credibility problem in his own mind if he doesn't do something," Bolton said. "That doesn't mean he has the slightest idea what the strategic effect of the use of military force is going to be."
It would take a "character transplant" for Obama to move effectively, he said.
"To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the president you have," Bolton said. "And I don't think this president understands enough about the implications of what he's about to do, or even that he can define what his objective is, that it doesn't put us more at risk of using military force and actually undermining our long-term interest."
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