Decorated military veteran Oliver North tells Newsmax he has no doubt the United States will launch an attack on Syria, but warns it will be "too little, too late" — and could result in more casualties if the strikes hit stockpiles of chemical weapons.
The best-selling author also says the situation in Syria results from the Obama administration's "abysmal" foreign policy, and charges that Obama is naïve to think there can be free and fair elections in countries "totally devoid" of democratic traditions.
North served in the U.S. Marines for 22 years and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also served on the staff of the National Security Council during former President Reagan's administration.
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He now serves as a military analyst on Fox News Channel and is the founder and honorary chairman of the Freedom Alliance foundation. His latest book is "Heroes Proved."
President Obama is said to be weighing a limited military strike on Syria after Secretary of State John Kerry said the use of chemical weapons there is undeniable.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, North offers his views on the possible strike.
"This is, after all, the same president who came into office promising to end Bush's wars, and it's pretty clear he's now preparing to start one of his own in Syria.
"I have no doubt that given what you've assembled out there with naval forces, the U.S., British, and French will indeed launch air strikes. Most likely in our case it'll be cruise missiles.
"There's no doubt that there's been terrible carnage in Syria when you've got 100,000-plus dead, over 250,000 wounded, and about 2.3 million refugees," North said. "I understand Assad's a terrible man, but all of this is a direct result of the O team's abysmal and feckless foreign policy. This attack that he's clearly planning to launch could indeed result in a lot more casualties from chemical weapons if he hits those depots because of the explosions that are going to occur from the cruise missiles."
Any action the administration can take in Syria now is "too little, too late," North says.
"This administration began this whole thing with the promise of an Arab Spring in his Cairo 2009 speech. It did nothing to improve the condition of anyone in the Arab world. In fact, people in all of those countries are now worse off.
"He has consistently badgered the Israelis, he's demanded that they go back to '67 borders, essentially abandoning their right of self-defense, he's pressured Netanyahu to do a peace deal with people who don't even acknowledge that Israel has a right to exist, and in so doing it, he's exacerbated tensions and driven up the price of oil.
"All this we've seen as a consequence of this naïve policy they have that you can have free and fair elections in countries totally devoid of any democratic institutions or traditions. If you look at the test cases in recent history: Iran, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, they've all been disastrous for the people of those countries, particularly for Christians, Maronites, Copts, Orthodox Roman Catholics, Protestant missionaries — and life is not getting better for any of these people."
Asked if attacks on Syria can ultimately prove effective, North responds: "I challenge anybody in the administration who's looking at the options right now to consider what transpired when Bill Clinton used cruise missiles. Two months after Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in April of '93, Clinton ordered an attack on Baghdad with 23 cruise missiles. Saddam continued his aggression against his neighbors and against his own people for another whole decade.
"Cruise missiles raining down from the heavens didn't prevent radical Islamic terrorist attacks. Two weeks after our embassies were bombed in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998, Clinton ordered 75 cruise missiles fired at a vacant tent camp in Afghanistan and a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan." The ultimate result of that was 17 dead sailors and 39 wounded in a suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000, North says.
"Here's the bottom line: Cruise missiles can make weak presidents feel strong but they don't have a long-term effect on despots or terrorists."
As to what steps the president should take, North suggests three things.
"No. 1, he had better remember that 9/11 is a jihadi anniversary and it will be every year from now through the end of time," he says. "That's less than three weeks from now. He needs to immediately beef up security at every American diplomatic mission in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
"No. 2, he needs to tell the Israelis in advance of any military action. I'm not talking about five minutes before the missiles hit. They really are our only allies in that part of the world and it's a place where we desperately need friends.
"No. 3, he needs to immediately go to the relevant committees of Congress — that means the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee — with a presidential finding ordering our very risk-averse intelligence agencies to immediately hire a sufficient number of contractors who will train, equip, and send into the field a force of real Syrian freedom-fighters.
"You can find some real secularists and people who are on our side in Jordan and there's about a million refugees in Jordan. So start now. Don't wait."
"That's not what he's done," North said. "He's basically jobbed it all out to [Prime Minister Tayyip] Erdogan in Turkey, who has turned it over to the Muslim Brotherhood, and so you now have radicals from every part of the Arab world — jihadis and radical Islamists — flowing into Syria, and you're going to end up with a government just like Morsi was in Egypt at the very best once you get out of this whole thing."
Russia and Iran — Syria's most important allies — have stated publicly that any attack on Syria would have serious consequences for the West. North foresees a direct response from Russia in the wake of an attack.
"The Russians have a major military base on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, and they are not going to give up that base," he tells Newsmax. "It is their only access to the Mediterranean at this point.
"And Putin has stuck his finger so many times in Obama's eye, you'd think Obama would have picked up on it by now but he hasn't.
"The Russians have the capacity to do some very ugly things. They can, for example, start shipping even more nuclear material to North Korea and to the Iranians. I'm not trying to advertise the scenario to the bad guys but it's right there.
"So that's what this administration is risking for an outcome of great uncertainty in Syria, because they have no idea who the good guys are in the Syrian resistance at this point. They've waited way too long, encouraged the wrong people, and handed it off to the wrong people."
North states that the United Nations is never going to give its approval to an attack on Syria because Russia and China are both on the Security Council.
Instead, "he's going to NATO and to the Arab League to get their blessings for this. Most important, though, he's got to make sure the Israelis know what's going to come."
North believes President Obama should seek approval from Congress before taking action in Syria rather than acting unilaterally as he did in Libya.
"The law says if you're going to send American troops into harm's way, or vessels or aircraft, then you have to notify Congress," he says. "It's very straightforward. He'd be nuts not to."
The president has warned the Syrian regime for two years now, and considering what's going on there and in Egypt and in Russia with Edward Snowden, it shows that the United States has lost much of its ability to sway events across the globe, North adds.
"Obama's red-line bluster before Assad used chemical weapons the first time and his phony promise to bring the perpetrators of the 9/11 Benghazi attack to justice has taught our adversaries an important lesson: Obama shoots from the lip. He doesn't back up all of what he says.
"And unfortunately, we don't have a military force today like we did when he came into office. Back then, we had 11 aircraft carriers. Today, we have six capable of going to sea. And when you look at those kinds of capabilities, that we've eliminated the idea that you could actually deter terrible things from happening with U.S. military force, has evaporated thanks to this president."
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