The "red line" comment by President Barack Obama about Syria and its alleged use of chemical weapons "has consequences," former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said Thursday.
"It has consequences. It has put us on the line that we would act in the face of these kinds of actions. And there are a lot of audiences for this, not just the Syrians," Hayden said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"I think it was an unwise comment when he made it about a year ago," Hayden stressed, adding that it "put the prestige of our president, the prestige of the credibility of the United States of America, at risk."
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Hayden said the United States would have had more leverage in the struggle with Syria if the president had never made the comment.
"I think we would have given ourselves a bit more space ... to begin to build an international coalition, and not to feel that we would have to act unilaterally, if necessary," he continued.
But Hayden insisted that it is important for the United States to take a stand to help deter future use of chemical weapons.
"We're doing this to show our resolve. There are some other actors here, Syria, especially Iran, maybe Hezbollah, that will want to show resolve, too. We're going to show they can't get away with this," said Hayden, who was a four-star general in the Air Force before he was tapped by President Bill Clinton to head the National Security Agency and later by President George W. Bush to lead the CIA.
Hayden said it would have been better to take action earlier in Syria rather than allow the situation to escalate to its current state.
"We have been hands-off for far too long," he said. "This would have been easier to influence and affect 18, 12 or 6 months ago, than it will be now. It's in our strategic interest to manage the transition in Syria."
In his conversation with Hayden, "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough agreed the president had mishandled the Syrian crisis to the point of backing the United States "into a corner" where the only way out is to unleash a military strike.
He also blasted the president for backing away from his "red line" comment Wednesday when he told reporters in Sweden that his credibility was not at stake in the crisis because the international community had long ago set down the red line marker on the use of chemical weapons, not him.
"He's backed America, in my opinion, into a corner," said Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida. "Now he can't flippantly just say, 'I had nothing to do with this.' Suddenly we're in a position where we have to go to war. It's ridiculous."
Scarborough also said, "The commander in chief's credibility is not only on the line. The United States of America's credibility is on the line. That's not just a message that is sent to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad in Syria. That is a message that is sent to the mullahs in Iran, who are not developing chemical weapons — they're developing nuclear bombs."
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