CHICAGO — Former President Bill Clinton applauded the White House decision to help Syrian rebels and said Friday the United States must “do more” to end the conflict.
Clinton spoke in a Bloomberg Television interview in Chicago a day after the U.S. made clear it would provide small arms and ammunition to the Syrian opposition amid battlefield setbacks by rebels. The move follows U.S. confirmation that forces loyal to President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in the civil war that began more than two years ago.
President Barack Obama is authorizing lethal military aid to rebel groups under a classified order instructing the Central Intelligence Agency to arrange delivery of the weapons, according to a U.S. official familiar with the decision who asked not to be identified discussing the action.
“I feel good about the announcement and I think we should wait and see what the details are,” Clinton told Trish Regan of Bloomberg Television.
“I don’t think that we should send troops there, but I don’t think we should stay where we are,” he said. “I think we should do more.”
Earlier this week, Clinton said Obama should act more forcefully in Syria, where the fight has taken more than 90,000 lives and created more than 1.5 million refugees, according to United Nations estimates.
Clinton, asked about Edward Snowden, who leaked information on top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs, said he saw few alternatives to the government using technology to learn about its enemies.
“One of the big challenges of our 21st century world will be to try to provide some right to privacy without being naive about the need to use our ability to track electronic communications to try to prevent terrible things from happening in the United States and around the world,” he said.
The Bloomberg interview took place on the second and final day of the annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting, a gathering that attracted about 1,000 business, government and foundation leaders.
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who served Obama as secretary of state until early this year, was the headline speaker Thursday.
The former president, asked about prospects of another Clinton occupying the White House after the 2016 election, said, “Chelsea’s still too young,” a reference to his 33-year-old daughter.
He also said: “I don’t know what Hillary’s going to do, but whatever it is, I expect to support it.”
His wife, 65, has been saying she has no plans for a second presidential run following her unsuccessful 2008 bid, while also not ruling out another try.
The former president, while known for his focus on politics, said in the interview he thinks the subject shouldn’t be such a constant.
“I think that only fixating on politics all the time gives us a form of national attention-deficit disorder,” he said. “We shouldn’t just fixate on the next presidential election all the time. We need to take a little time off to work and think about what our country needs and think about what we can do together and think about what the parties can do together and think about how we can reach across these lines that divide us and make something good happen for America.”