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Rumsfeld: No Syria strike because Obama leadership 'absent'

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday the U.S. should not strike President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria because the White House’s proposal doesn’t go far enough and because President Obama is not a strong leader.

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“The question is, what's the right thing to do,” Rumsfeld said on CNN’s "New Day." “And absent resolute leadership, it seems to me, the right thing to do is to not get engaged.”

Rumsfeld’s comments come a day after he acknowledged he was convinced by Secretary of State John Kerry’s “persuasive and forceful” testimony that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people.

Rumsfeld has also previously argued that Obama didn’t need to seek congressional approval before authorizing a military strike.

But on Thursday, Rumsfeld said that Obama had muddled the message about a red line in Syria, and that the U.S. should stay out since the president wasn’t “providing a vision" for the operation. 

“It's exactly the reason that there is not a large coalition wanting to support the president,” Rumsfeld said. “It's the reason that the Congress is confused because he has spent so much time saying what he would not do and what it would not amount to that I think people are confused, and the essence of leadership is clarity, and providing a vision, and he has not done that.”

“I think as a result it's perfectly understandable that people in the Congress are getting arranged to oppose what he's proposing because they find that it's uncertain and lacks clarity,” he added.

Rumsfeld argued that the White House should have armed the rebels “a year or two ago” — before Assad had used chemical weapons — and said the administration was not plotting a strong enough attack in the present.

“It seemed to me that the time to have helped the rebels would have been a year or two before, before 100,000 people were killed,” he said. “And the effect of it might have been greater. Where we are today, my personal view is that what he has proposed is not something that will have a tough effect, that it's worth doing. And I would personally not be in favor of supporting what he's proposing.”

On Wednesday, Rumsfeld referred to Obama as “the so-called commander in chief.”