Ex-Defense Secretary Gates: Hillary Clinton 'More Hawkish Than President Obama'

By Susan Jones | May 16, 2016 | 7:12am EDT
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Hillary Clinton's world view is probably "more hawkish" than that of President Obama.

"It was my experience in working with her that she was very tough-minded," Gates told CBS's "Face the Nation." Clinton at the time was secretary of state.

"And, for example, when General McChrystal was asking for 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, she was very tough in support of what the general wanted. She also was an advocate for going into Libya. So I suspect, although we've -- we have not had a conversation in -- since I left in almost five years, I would suspect that generally speaking, she is more hawkish than President Obama."

Gates said he was "deeply opposed" to the U.S. military intervention in Libya. And he said he never believed that lifting the sanctions on Iran would lead the regime to "change its stripes and become a normal country."

"I always thought that was a stretch," Gates said.

While debating air strikes on Libya in the White House situation room, Gates said his reaction always was, "can I just finish the two wars we're already in before you go looking for a third one?"

Host John Dickerson asked Gates if President Obama is right to be proud of his decision not to take military action against Syria, despite announcing that a "red line" for the United States would be Syria's use of chemical weapons.

"Should he have laid down the red line in the first place?" Gates responded. "And having laid down a red line or whether or not he laid down a red line, should he have taken military action?

"First of all, I believe that -- and always cautioned -- that presidents should be extraordinarily careful about issuing ultimatums or drawing red lines because when the president of the United States does that, the rest of the world must know it is fatal to cross it. That when the United States makes a threat, it is not an empty threat.

"That said, so I don't think he should have ever made the threat in the first place. And I would have counseled him against it. Whether he should have used air power early on to -- to either create safe havens or to ground Assad's air force, I -- I think that's a -- that's a debatable point.

"Should we send significant numbers of American combat forces into Syria, I would say, absolutely not. And I agreed with him on that point."

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