Former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden likened using air power against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to “casual sex.”
“The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment,” the retired general told U.S. News & World Report.
Hayden’s remark caught fire on Twitter, after CNN showed the quote on air Friday morning.
Hayden was director of the CIA and the NSA under President George W. Bush. He was also a sharp critic of the disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the country’s secret surveillance programs. Hayden said those leaks endangered national security.
Hayden’s comments come with President Obama opening the door to airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria.
The general though cautioned that air power alone might not be enough to defeat the al Qaeda offshoot.
“We need to be wary of a strategy that puts emphasis on air power and air power alone," he said.
“The sooner we take the fight into Syria against [ISIS], the better off we’ll be,” he added.
Asked about the emarks on Friday, State Department deputy spokesman Marie Harf said Hayden is “well aware” of the tools that the U.S. has to take down terrorists.
“General Hayden, all joking aside, knows very well the counterterrorism tools that we have at our disposal from when he was CIA director — some of which we obviously don’t utilize any more, as we’ve been clear, but some of which are tools we still have at our disposal, including, of course, direct action. So he is well aware of how you take the fight directly to terrorists.”
Harf reiterated that the the United States won't be using American ground troops to fight ISIS.
“The best partner on the ground in that role is the Iraqi and the Kurdish security forces in Iraq and the moderate opposition in Syria,” Harf said.
— This story was updated at 1:56 p.m.