|Pawlenty: U.S. Should Take On Syria’s Assad.|
By Patrick O'Connor
Tim Pawlenty called on President Barack Obama Monday night to take punitive action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the former Minnesota governor seeks to bolster his foreign-policy credentials ahead of the GOP presidential primary.
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt shortly before the president defended the U.S. military involvement in Libya, Mr. Pawlenty said Mr. Obama should withdraw the U.S. ambassador from Syria, express solidarity with the protestors there and impose sanctions, “both economic and otherwise,” against the country and its leader.
Unlike most years, when the presidential field is crowded with senators who claim long foreign-policy resumes, this year’s crop of White House hopefuls is dominated by current and former governors who have never had to sign off on an invasion of a foreign country or prod an administration to sever its diplomatic ties with an upstart dictator (even those whose states share a border with Canada).
Like other Republican governors vying for the presidential nomination, Mr. Pawlenty has been making careful foreign-policy arguments against the president . Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose own presidential aspirations are more opaque, has also been increasingly critical of Mr. Obama’s decision-making when it comes to the military and U.S. engagement with the world.
In interviews and speeches, Mr. Pawlenty often mentions his extensive foreign travel as governor, highlighting trips to Iraq and Afghanistan to meet with National Guard troops from Minnesota. During an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, the former Minnesota governor criticized Mr. Obama for what he deemed an initially “muted” response to the violence unfolding in Libya, where forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi had already begun targeting rebels.
(The president, in contrast, told the country Monday night that the NATO-led response was remarkably fast when compared against previous military interventions endorsed by the United Nations, like the one in Bosnia in the late-1990s.)
In the interview with Mr. Hewitt, the former Minnesota governor called the Syrian president “a dictator.”
“His father killed thousands – tens of thousands of people,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “He is also a killer. And we have an individual there who many people in the United States have been duped into thinking is a reformer.”
He criticized the Obama administration for sending an ambassador to Syria after years without an official envoy and argued the country “enabled and accommodated people to go into Iraq and kill American soldiers” and abets terrorism in Israel by harboring Hamas.
With Republicans becoming increasingly critical of the president’s decision to intervene in Libya – after many of those same critics slammed him for not acting swiftly enough (see: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich) – Mr. Pawlenty has chosen a separate front in which to criticize Mr. Obama. He also appears to be charting a much more interventionist policy, whether deliberately or by accident, than the current president.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday that the administration has no plans to intervene in Syria, where security forces have reportedly fired on crowds of protesters and raided at least on mosque where dissidents sought refuge. In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” she said, “What’s been happening there the last few weeks is deeply concerning, but there’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities.”