Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Book Review: ‘Worthy Fights,’ by Leon E. Panetta

On Actions Taken, or Not

By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
OCT. 6, 2014

The most interesting news in former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s memoir, “Worthy Fights,” concerns his disagreements with the Obama White House over Syria, Iraq and the budget crisis — disagreements that have been outlined in recent interviews and in testimony before Congress. Still, Mr. Panetta elaborates on such subjects here, and these passages — in what is otherwise an often opaque and evasive book — shed light on the distressing events now unfolding in the Middle East as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, rolls through large sections of Syria and Iraq. They also illuminate decisions made by the Obama administration, which, in the view of Mr. Panetta and many military observers, contributed to (or at least failed to help inhibit) these sobering developments.

In “Worthy Fights,” Mr. Panetta reminds us that two years ago, he — along with David H. Petraeus, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — supported a plan to arm moderate Syrian rebels. In an interview last month with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Panetta said he thought that such a plan “would’ve helped. And I think in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS” today.

Here, he writes: “If we don’t prevent these Sunni extremists from taking over large swaths of territory in the Middle East, it will be only a matter of time before they turn their sights on us.”

(More here.)

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