Though a rift with the Pentagon over the treatment of Wikileaks suspect Pfc. Bradley Manning led to his resignation back in March, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley still has friendly ties with the administration. But as he heads to Carlisle, Pa. for a new gig as a professor, the long-time Washington figure is now hoping to convince his buddies at State to push harder on the ruling regime in Syria. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Middle East uprisings.]
Asked if he's still on good terms with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his former colleagues, he says, "Of course. They're my friends." But that doesn't mean he can't offer some friendly criticism of their current policy.
He says that while the administration was understandably careful at the start of the Arab Spring, it's time to act against oppressive leaders. "Caution was appropriate early on, but now that we're seeing leaders in Yemen, Syria, [and] Libya actively resist change, the policies should become much more aggressive, particularly in respect to Syria. If Qadhafi is illegitimate, Assad is illegitimate. The administration has held out too long in thinking that maybe it could ween Assad away from the regime, or maybe it could ween Assad away from Iran. There's really no evidence to suggest that Assad is going to change," he says. [See photos of the unrest in Libya.]
Crowley told Whispers that what he's seeing at the administration is just "an inching forward," and he wants to see the administration be "more assertive" on the policies espoused by President Obama in his speeches on the region last month, especially on the issue of President Bashar Assad in Syria. "It's time to make it clear that Assad has no legitimacy, he has no credibility. We've seen his security forces kill thousands of people, and we should become more vocal in our support for the opposition in Syria."
As for the treatment of Manning, who was recently moved to Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas in April from the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., he says that the Pentagon has taken "appropriate action." He says that he can't judge whether his fateful critique of the issue had an impact or not. "I spoke out, and others were working behind the scenes, but eventually the Pentagon came to recognize that the situation at Quantico was unsustainable. He's been moved to a facility at Ft. Leavenworth which is much more consistent with pre-trial detention for any suspect in a military court, in a civilian court," Crowley says. [Take our poll: Should Wikileaks be shut down?]