Jimmy Carter

Carter Criticizes Obama's Slow ISIS Response

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White House

Former President Jimmy Carter is critical of current President Barack Obama's approach to dealing with the Islamic State (ISIS). Although long known as a promoter of peace, Carter believes America should've been more hawkish and quicker to deal with the organization overrunning parts of Syria and Iraq.

Carter told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria. Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn't object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned. …

You have to have somebody on the ground to direct our missiles and to be sure you have the right target. Then you have to have somebody to move in and be willing to fight ISIS after the strikes.

He added that Obama's foreign policy "changes from time to time. I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president." Indeed, Leon Panetta just ripped into Obama.

There's a lot of legitimate criticism for the hapless Obama, who has been skipping many intelligence briefings, but Carter's statements are a curious change in position for a man at 90 who prides his own presidency on "never dropp[ing] a bomb" and "never fir[ing] a bullet." He's criticized Bush's wars, and less than a year ago, when the Obama administration wanted to bomb Syria's Assad regime, Carter penned an op-ed titled "Time to Be Bold and Make Peace in Syria."

Perhaps the interviewer omitted some significant portions of the responses, because Carter's coulda-woulda-shoulda statements are of limited value without more in-depth explanations of how he thinks Obama might have intervened more effectively. Carter has previously been cautious about the legality of an American military intervention intervention, but his latest words fail to illuminate how the current president, who is already using dubious legal justifications, could have mobilized legitimately and more rapidly within the bounds of his authority.

The Carter Center's policy suggestions on Syria are all peaceful political resolutions, with no mention of either U.S. military engagement or the Islamic State. The center doesn't have anything up-to-date on Iraq.

This isn't the first time Carter has pushed for action. Last month he announced, "I think we need to bomb ISIS," but didn't hint that it was already overdue. At the time he also seemed to suggest that America's allies, as opposed to America itself, should bring the ground troops. Soon after he pivoted slightly and said a bombing campaign would cost too many civilian lives and that American U.S. forces should be on the ground.