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Rumsfeld: On Syria, Obama's 'leadership has lacked a vision'

Sep. 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM ET

President Obama has demonstrated a lack of vision in his military strategy against Syria that may cost him global support, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday, a day after he slammed the president’s actions so far as “feckless and ineffective.”

“The leadership has lacked a vision, and the essence of leadership is to have a vision and clarity. That’s where you develop the kind of support and unity in our country and our congress and in the world,” Rumsfeld told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie. “If there’s anything that’s clear, it’s that they do not have that kind of unity at the present time because of a lack of clarity.”

A day earlier while speaking at the Ford Presidential museum in Michigan, Rumsfeld criticized Obama’s plans for a limited airstrike against Syria. He said he supported forcing a complete regime change – or taking no action at all.

On TODAY, he repeated his charge.

“The danger of doing something that’s not worth anything, that results in nothing, that leaves (Syrian President Bashar) Assad standing, it seems to me that it makes the United State look like that’s what we prefer. Quite the contrary,” he said.

Rumsfeld toned down his criticism a notch Wednesday by saying that “the instinct I have is to be supportive of the president and to wish him well if he decides to use force.”

Rumsfeld said Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization to use force is “probably a useful thing,” but unnecessary.

“President after president has recognized that the authorities they have as commander-in-chief enable them to use force within reason,” he said.

Rumsfeld was defense secretary under the Ford administration and again under President George W. Bush, when he served pivotal roles in the U.S. decisions to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.

The misleading intelligence leading up to Iraq has loomed heavily over lawmakers in the United States, Britain and other nations reluctant to act against Syria. Rumsfeld said he felt no personal responsibility for any distrust people have about U.S. intelligence, instead blaming others in the administration at the time.

“The intelligence community turned out to be wrong, and the presentation made by Secretary of State Colin Powell proved out to be wrong,” he said.

He said President Bush got both the support of Congress and the United Nations before pressing forward “and fashioned a very large coalition, so it seems to me that all the appropriate steps were taken and the congress, a Democratic congress, voted for regime change in Iraq.”

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