“With all the credibility we’ve gained in the world, we don’t want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying ‘weapons of mass destruction’,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
His remarks represent the administration’s most explicit comparison between the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq and President Barack Obama‘s approach to Syria.
Joe Biden: The Rolling Stone Interview
But here's where we are with regard to Syria. With all the credibility we've gained in the world, we don't want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying "weapons of mass destruction." We know that there have been traces found of what are probably chemical weapons. What we don't know yet – and we're drilling down on it as hard as we can – is whether they were accidentally released in an exchange of gunfire or artillery fire, or blown up or something. We also don't have a chain of ownership. We don't know for certain whether they were used by some of the opposition, including the radicals who have aligned themselves with Al Qaeda. It's probable, but we don't know for certain, that they were used by the regime.
If the judgment is chemical weapons were used, then the president is likely to use a proportional response in terms of meaningful action. We also believe that no matter how this ends, there is going to be political unrest in Syria for some time to come, and we want to make sure that, in the transition from Assad, there is, as best we can form it with the rest of the world, an inclusive, nonsectarian government that has institutions that still exist to be able to govern a country. The one lesson we learned from Iraq and the last administration is . .  . how can I say it? In managing the affairs in Iraq, they destroyed every institution. There was no structure left. There wasn't even a Department of Public Works. And we know we can fix that, if we're willing to spend a trillion dollars and 160,000 troops and 6,000 dead, but that we cannot do. So what we're trying to do now is – and we're having some success – is get the opposition in coordination and not have, indiscriminately, weapons going to Al Nusra, who are very extreme. We've declared them a terrorist organization, and its leader has said he's pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, so it's not like we're making it up. This is a very, very tough process to manage.