(DALLAS) -- Robert Gates and Leon Panetta were both secretaries of defense in the current administration and they're both unhappy with the way President Obama has conducted the Syrian chemical weapons crisis.
Appearing at a forum Tuesday night at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Gates and Panetta each held a different view of how the president should have reacted after learning of the Aug. 21 attack that killed 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb.
Gates said that he would not have called for a limited missile strike against President Bashar al-Assad's regime because, "If we launch a military attack, in the eyes of a lot of people we become the villain instead of Assad."
Meanwhile, Panetta said Obama made a mistake by not acting immediately on his initial threat to punish Assad militarily for allegedly using sarin gas on his own people, saying not following through diminished America's credibility.
Both former Pentagon chiefs opposed the president's decision to seek congressional approval for a military strike, saying the president’s prestige would have suffered if he was voted down.
Gates also questioned Russian President Vladimir Putin's motivations in supporting Moscow's proposal to turn Syria's weapons over to international control, adding that the West should be very wary of him.
Asked about his predecessors' comments, Secretary of State Chuck Hagel said that while he respected Gates and Panetta, "Obviously, I don’t agree with their perspectives."
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