Did Everyone but Obama Want to Arm Syrian Rebels?

Former Obama administration officials are talking about their policy disagreements at the worst time.

It's no secret top members of President Barack Obama's national security team disagreed with his decision to oppose the arming and training of Syrian rebels in 2012. But their willingness to publicly voice their disagreements now couldn't come at a worse time for President Obama, who is spending most of this week trying to build a coalition against ISIS. 

Hillary Clinton, Obama's secretary of State at the time, wrote in her book "Hard Choices'' about her support for a plan to arm and equip the rebels. Her husband, in a weekend interview on CNN, backed her position. 

"I agreed with her and would have taken that chance,'' former President Bill Clinton said, adding that he also understood the need for caution with decisions like this "because you can't know'' how they are going to turn out.  

Far more damning was Leon Panetta's interview last night with "60 Minutes":

I think the president's concern, and I understand it, was that he had a fear that if we started providing weapons, we wouldn't know where those weapons would wind up. My view was: You have to begin somewhere.

The rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has provided no shortage of ammunition for lawmakers critical of Obama's decision in 2012 to reject full-scale plans to arm and train moderate, "vetted'' rebels to counter Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The decision, critics say, created a vacuum that Islamic militant groups like al-Nusrah Front and Islamic State moved quickly to fill. 

Then-CIA Director David Petraeus and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are also known to have supported proposals to arm rebels, but they haven't gone public yet. Panetta and Hillary Clinton had a great reason to do so -- their new books. And Bill went on the record just as world leaders headed to the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

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