Meet the Press   |  September 01, 2013

Syria actions in Iraq's shadow

A Meet the Press roundtable discusses how the Iraq war influenced debate in Parliament and the American public reaction on the Syria conflict.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i think the legacy of the iraq war , one of the chief legacies, is that the united states spent a decade trying to engineer the kind of democratic change in the middle east that has not taken root, and that the american public is not prepared to go there again, to say nothing of the fact that syria is even more complicated arguably as a sectarian matter than iraq , katty.

>> yeah. i think the vote in london was a concrete example of the damage that has been done --

>> right.

>> -- to american intelligence and american-led policy in the middle east by the iraq war . and it was clearly the ghost that hung over parliamentarians. a word of warning to the white house . my understanding from london is that whatever the evidence that are being presented to parliament, whatever the case cameron might have made -- and yes, he called them back hurriedly, didn't give it much time, but there was so much antipathy in britain and the parliamentary body not to go along with another american-led venture in the middle east on the understanding that we don't know where this finishes, this could end well as it has in the past, and we don't want to be seen just to sign up on something --

>> that's why it's important too you have this vociferous debate, pass a congressional authorization to do so, and have everybody involved in a united front on this. none of that would be solved, quite frankly, that you just outlined, by going hurriedly and doing this in a way that doesn't --

>> but you have to the risk that congress votes no.

>> the lesson learned from cameron is that he did rush it, he did bring everybody back from vacation, and this is something they don't want to to. he got martin dempsey , chairman of the joint chiefs , to give him a window, give him time. we were counting back from the president's departure from the summit in st. petersburg saying something has to happen in 48 hours , and you have the military saying no it doesn't. tomorrow, next week, next month. so he's buying time in part to put it to congress.

>> cameron lost partly because he's the conservative prime minister, held the majority of his own party. nonetheless, the entire labor party , tony blair 's party, voted against him. president obama will not have that problem. he'll hold half the democrats, presumably. republicans will not be irresponsible as they have been in the past and i think put country ahead of party, and he'll get enough republican votes, a majority of republicans, especially if they can tweak the resolution to go to war. i think he'll go to war with bipartisan support.

>> bill, a lot of people criticize the president and say what is his doctrine in foreign policy ? what's his overall strategy? one thing i think is actually clear from all this is that his one bottom line is the united states cannot allow wmd to be used. hangover from iraq notwithstanding, you cannot allow bad guys to use the worst weapons.

>> right, and the implication of that is of course maybe you shouldn't allow bad guys , the worst guys to get the worst weapons in the first place. this does have implications.

>> do you think he did that?

>> of course he did. but better late than never monopo. honestly late is more difficult. better late than never and it does establish a predicate, incidentally, for the dictators many the region seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction .

>> let's understand the fundamental difference from iraq , right. we know that there are chemical weapons and they have been used. we're still looking for the chemical weapons in iraq .

>> saddam used chemical weapons . against his own citizens actually.

>> right.

>> and the world did nothing.

>> the world did nothing and we should have done something then.

>> for months we looked for rationale for iraq . we continued to look for that rationale for iraq after we started a war with iraq and still haven't come up with the chemical weapons rationale. so doing this in a deliberate way again, this is why the president was elected to be president, because we're going to --

>> i understand why it's easy to get caught up in the iraq hangover and reargue the iraq war . but the question we should be listening for as we watch the case being made is iran .

>> sure.

>> you heard secretary kerry talk about it this morning. we saw the president allude to it not only in his public statements but in this authorization that's been sent to congress. that's going to be the case and worry not only for the president but also for allies in the region who are part of the tiny little coalition of the willing , jordan and turkey.

>> isn't it interesting, to your point, that secretary kerry said, my former colleagues won't turn their back on the impact what iran sees and u.s. credibility. he put it out there, you know. he said this is about u.s. credibility at this point.

>> to some extent we in a situation where not acting is worse than acting in terms of american credibility around the world and in the region and in terms of trying to prevent people in that region, whether it's president assad or the mullahs in iran from thinking that they can get away with this again. and one of the arguments that the white house is going to use to members of congress as they speak to them this week is this undermines the security of our allies including israel in the region and because they know there are a lot of friends of israel in congress. that's part of the reason --

>> there's a broadening of a political argument to get folks more on bill's side of the aisle more comfortable with something that is not regime change but is limited to enforcing chemical weapons .

>> look, it may be just in this town of washington, but the inside administration intrigue, do you think the secretary of state was hung out to dry ? do you think he was undermined when the president sent him out there, only to have the president change his mind?

>> say yes. say yes.

>> you've never said anything on this show that made news.

>> say it publicly.

>> i will say this. as i said earlier, one, i think kerry made a forceful and persuasive case that he will have to make continually for the next ten days. again, i think the sequencing of the week's events was not in any way in the order that i think was the way they would want to have unwound this.

>> i think we get that.

>> that sounded like yes to me.

>> that was the press secretary.

>> very quickly, then i have to go.

>> to be fair, when i was in the first bush white house , we screwed up everything in september, object, november in terms of the presentation. jim baker said this is a war about jobs, mixed signals. at the end of the day we got congressional authorization and the first iraq war is considered to have been a great success and the country was for it. i don't think the minor mistakes they've made over the last week or two affect the outcome.

>> i have to leave it there. thank you all very