VIDEO: James A. Baker Discusses Syria Crisis on CBS THIS MORNING
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker discussed the fiscal cliff negotiations and the crisis in Syria in an interview with co-hosts Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell that was broadcast live today, Dec. 7, 2012, on CBS THIS MORNING on the CBS Television Network (7:00 AM – 9:00 AM). Check out the interview in its entirety below!
Below are excerpts from the interview:
ROSE: Secretary Baker, what do you think the government of Assad, President Assad might do with these chemical weapons? Is he capable, likely to use them?
BAKER: Well, I have no idea, Charlie. But if there's evidence-if our intelligence community has evidence that they are beginning to mix the chemicals, that would be quite disturbing if he did use them. It would not be the first time that an Alawite sect leader used them against his own people. That happened, of course, way back in 1980, when Saddam Hussein used them against the Kurds, so hopefully that's not going to happen.
ROSE: What should trigger the United States to act to stop him from using them?
BAKER: Well, I think what the administration has done and is doing is the right course to follow. I think it's fine to put a marker down there and tell the government of Bashar al-Assad that they better not use them, but that does raise a credibility problem because any time a president of the United States threatens something, he better damn well be prepared to follow through with it and they've never said what the consequences would be, of course. The consequences could range from anything including further diplomatic, political and economic actions to military action or to the idea that once the regime falls and it is going to fall, once the regime falls then the people responsible would be held accountable in the proper jurisdictions.
ROSE: Are you suggesting that the President should make clear what the consequences are rather than just simply saying there will be consequences?
BAKER: Well, I don't know whether you do that publicly now or not, but I think it wouldn't be at all bad for the Syrians to understand what the extent of the consequences are. I mean, it's fine to threaten, you know, undefined consequences, but it might be more meaningful to the Syrians if they knew specifically what the consequences were. I happen to be one who doesn't think we ought to be involved militarily in that country. I think the American people are tired of military involvement in that part of the world. Our forces are stretched pretty thin. We don't have the money, we're broke, we're a broke country. And so anything we can do politically, diplomatically and economically we should do to bring about a regime change there. We ought to be quite weary and leery, I think, of military involvement, which has a way of becoming a slippery slope, and that is the policy that I think the administration is following and so far at least I agree with that policy.
O'DONNELL: Secretary, Norah O'Donnell here. You mentioned now that the problems here at home in the United States and the fiscal cliff, which you've written an op-ed about that. Are you concerned about the negotiations and how they are going at this point?
BAKER: Well, I'm plenty concerned. I'll tell you what, Norah, I'm encouraged to hear overnight that President Obama and Speaker Boehner have decided they are going to sit down and try to negotiate this out quietly and confidentially. That's the way we used to do it. That's the way Ronald Reagan did it with Tip O'Neill. That's how we fixed Social Security, the third rail of politics back there in 1982 or '83. We had private meetings actually in the basement of my home in Washington. Nobody knew about them, and we were free to give and take and put things on the table without fear that it would be used politically against us. Same thing for the Democrats. That's what we need to get back to. We need something in the nature, Norah, of a grand bargain along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles proposal or Domenici-Rivlin, something that has everything on the table and that cuts spending and increases revenue, and we got to do it. The country is in extraordinarily bad shape economically.