Obama: Refusing to Bomb Syria 'Required the Most Political Courage'

Barack Obama
May 15, 2017

Former President Barack Obama claimed in an interview published Monday that not bombing Syria during his time in office "required the most political courage."

Obama made the comments while speaking with former President John F. Kennedy's grandson Jack Schlossberg, who published a transcript of their conversation on Medium, Politico reported. The conversation took place before Obama received the John F. Kenny Profile in Courage Award last week.

Schlossberg, who is on the committee that gave Obama the award, asked the former president what issues demanded the most courage. Obama told Schlossberg that he thought sending soldiers to battle was the hardest issue, before stating that he thought not bombing Syria took the most political courage.

"But I actually think that the issue that required the most political courage was the decision not to bomb Syria after the chemical weapons use had been publicized and rather to negotiate them removing chemical weapons from Syria," Obama said.

"The reason it was hard was because, as president, what you discover is that you generally get praised for taking military action, and you're often criticized for not doing so," the former president continued.

Obama has been criticized for not following through on his promised "red line" threat to strike Syria if Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime used chemical weapons on civilians. After the Assad regime used chemical weapons, Obama did not take military action.

President Donald Trump struck Syria in early April after the Assad regime again used chemical weapons against civilians. Some critics believe Obama's refusal to strike Syria contributed to the rise of the Islamic State and the continuation of the Syrian conflict.