"I'm just speaking from myself. But I certainly wouldn't take that off the table too," he said, speaking of the idea of arming the rebels.
Clinton was San Diego for his annual Clinton Global Initiative University Summit Meeting. The CGI unites government officials, nonprofit directors and business leaders to address some of the world's most pressing problems, including hunger, poverty and lack of access to education.
"GMA" talked with the former president at the San Diego Food Bank, where college students came to participate in service projects at part of the CGI's annual meeting.
Clinton said students were taking up the challenge. He mentioned two students from Brown University who had come up with an idea to set up a website that would allow people to pay tuition for the 100 million children around the world who aren't able to afford education.
He also mentioned Charlotte Crone, a student who developed a nutritious, affordable diet to combat childhood obesity. Her meal plan would feed a family of four for one week for about $50, Clinton said.
Clinton said low-income families tend to make ends meet by feeding their children food that is high in calories but low in nutritional value. Those children also tend to get less exercise. That lifestyle has dire consequences.
"We already know that we spend $115 billion in our healthcare system, more than we would otherwise, because of the consequences of diabetes ...more and more young people are getting it because of the way we changed our diet and our exercise patterns," Clinton said.
Clinton isn't the only high profile person to draw attention to the problem. First lady Michelle Obama has brought the issue to the forefront of the nation's consciousness with her "Let's Move!" awareness campaign that seeks to end childhood obesity within a generation.
But the first lady's initiative has found detractors. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and other conservatives have said the government should have no role in people's nutritional choices. The first lady has said her campaign educates and empowers parents.
Clinton also spoke about his daughter Chelsea's moderation of a panel on college affordability. He said the topic was of interest to his daughter and noted that college costs had gone up 75 percent, after inflation, in the wake of the financial meltdown.
The former president also talked about the U.S. economy, job creation and training, and the stimulation of lending.
"The capacity of the economy is grossly underutilized," Clinton said. "We have a lot of opportunities now because of this crisis and what it's done to the American (dollar) and interest rates being low, for example, to bring back manufacturing in America at a high skill level. And we need to look at this."
Employment in the construction industry is down and people can't afford to build offices now, Clinton said, but he noted that existing structures could be retrofitted for energy efficiency in "every state, county and local government building. Every school building. Every college and university building. Every museum. Every hospital ... ."
Regarding the potential government shutdown that's looming, Clinton said the effects would likely not be traumatic should it go into effect.
Basic services would be allowed to continue, he said, adding: "And I think that ... it can hurt the Republicans if it looks like the Democrats have a reasonable offer."