Major General Eaton responds to Romney’s Syria critique on MSNBC’s “Hardball”

Home / / Major General Eaton responds to Romney’s Syria critique on MSNBC’s “Hardball”

Major General Eaton responds to Romney’s Syria critique on MSNBC’s “Hardball”

P.J. Crowley, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and Major General Paul Eaton join Hardball to discuss Mitt Romney’s criticism about President Obama’s handling of the violent situation in Syria.


MATTHEWS: We`re back.

Amid escalating violence over there in Syria, where last week, dozens of children were brutally killed. The United States and several other countries have expelled Syrian diplomats in a move to pressure the Assad regime. But back home, Mitt Romney condemned the Obama administration for leaning on diplomacy.

In a statement issued yesterday, Romney said, quote, “President Obama`s lack of leadership has resulted in a policy of paralysis that has watched Assad slaughter 10,000 individuals. We should increase pressure on Russia to cease selling arms to the Syrian government and to end its obstruction at the United Nation. And we should work with the partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves.”

P.J. Crowley is a former State Department spokesman, and Major General Paul Eaton, rather, served more than three decades in the U.S. Army.

I want it start with Major Eaton on this matter. Is this president simply — rather not this president, this president wannabe, Mitt Romney. Is he simply surround by the same people who surround W., who used their intellectual superiority over the president in Iraq to talk him on the war in Iraq — are they doing the same thing to always push this candidate on the Republican Party to be hawkish at every moment on every front?

MAJ. GEN. PAUL EATON, U.S. ARMY (RET): Chris, good to be with you.

And it certainly seems to be that way. A lot of neo cons putting out a lot of papers that this former governor may or may not be reading. We can`t tell.

But I`ll tell you the military is bemused consistently by people with no military experience who wish to resort to military action as a primary activity. I mean, Governor Romney road the war out as a missionary in Paris. This is not a guy with serious credentials for foreign policy.

MATTHEWS: So, where does he come out with these burps of foreign policy wisdom? Where does this need to always go to war, to arm the rebels, to challenge Iran, to say they will not have a nuclear weapon because I say so? Where does this — is this all a metaphor since he has no real tangible experience ever carrying a gun or being in a fist fight in high school in high school?

No sense in his family history of military role, father or son, nobody in that family has ever been involved with even ROTC, where does he get the wherewithal to talk like he is a foreign policy hawk? Who`s writing the script?

EATON: It is a neocon reflex to militarize foreign policy. It is a neocon approach — it`s a hammer and a nail. All you have is a hammer, the whole world looks to be a nail. They refuse to pursue a diplomatic approach which is certainly what we need to do here in Syria.

MATTHEWS: Let me go right now to P.J. Crowley, because he spoke for the State Department so effectively I believe all these years and all those years.

And I`m just wondering what do we make of this guy — he does remind me of somebody who suddenly being scripted to talk like some kind of a tough guy internationally. And I just wonder where it comes from. What`s the genesis of this Mitt Romney tough guy?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Well, of course, Chris, as you know, there`s a difference between campaigning and governing. He is trying to create differences that may or may not exist. Most of what he outlined the Obama administration has considered is doing or has considered and rejected.

You know, on the subject for example of arming the opposition, well, the Gulf states are already doing that because Syria is a proxy war, you know, with Iran. But also, be careful what you wish for.

You know, in the context of Libya, for example, Libya is awash with arms, and once the war has ended, now the new central government is having a tough time reining in, you know, these armed militias that are now challenging the authority of the new government. So, that`s a difference between ultimately, something that sounds good in the campaign, but may not be the best policy approach.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice who is being talked about in some circles to be the next secretary of state, responding to calls to arm the Syrian opposition today on “ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS”. Let`s listen to the ambassador to the U.N.


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: For those who are advocating arming the position, they really ought to consider the consequences of that approach. And also to ask frankly, who are they arming inside of the Syrian opposition?

You know and we know it is not unified. It`s fragmented. They don`t have common command and control. There are some extremist elements mixed in there.

And we know much less about the leadership and the intentions of the Syrian opposition than we did even of the Libyan opposition at the time. And I want to remind you that we did not arm the Libyan opposition.


MATTHEWS: Well, there`s a sophisticated response to the Romney argument that`s coming from the neocons.

But here is John McCain on Sunday, on FOX. Here is what he says, knocking the president as he has been doing lately. Here is McCain.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Horrible things are happening in Syria. This administration has a feckless foreign policy which abandons American leadership. The only conclusion you can draw is that this president want dos kick the can down the road on all of these issues until after the election. It`s really an abdication of everything that America stands for and believes in.


MATTHEWS: General Eaton, what do you make of this back-and-forth between ambassador to the U.N. and John McCain, who sometimes seems like he`s bitter about everything? What`s going on here?

EATON: Chris, Senator McCain has not recovered from 2008. That colors everything he says and does. And he is not pursuing complex nuanced approaches to solving foreign policy problems. His answer is air strikes, air strikes, air strikes. And he has marshaled other surrogates for Governor Romney to have that same party line.

It`s unfortunate, and I am delighted to hear Ambassador Rice and the subtlety with which he speaks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. I agree with you, General Eaton, there is nothing that the neocon intellectuals like more than an empty shell. They found it in Dan Quayle. That they use very effectively. They found in W., vacant attitude of foreign policy experience at all and they use these guys to be super hawks, this new candidate for super hawk. They`re going to feed him. They`re going to script him. And you won`t even know where he came from because he`s going to be created in the months ahead by the neocons.

Anyway, thank you, P.J. Crowley. And thank you, Major General Paul Eaton.

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