Former President Jimmy Carter said that President Barack Obama failed to act quickly enough to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The 90-year-old humanitarian criticized Obama’s delayed action against ISIS — and his policies in the Middle East in general — in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday.
“It changes from time to time,” Carter said of Obama’s policies in the Middle East. “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.”
The most recent critique came from Leon Panetta who served under Obama as head of the CIA and as secretary of defense. In his new memoir, Panetta slammed Obama for diminishing the U.S.’s credibility, citing, for example, Obama’s failure to follow through with his promise to act against Syria if the country crossed a “red line” in its use of chemical weapons.
Carter noted similar feet-dragging in Obama’s stance towards ISIS, which has used brutal violence as it seeks to establish a caliphate in the Middle East.
“First of all, we waited too long,” Carter told the Star-Telegram. “We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria.”
Obama has been heavily criticized for comparing ISIS to a “JV” basketball team, indicating that he believed that the terrorist group did not pose a serious threat. And in August, weeks after he announced targeted airstrikes against the group, Obama made waves when he said “we don’t have a strategy yet” in regards to fighting ISIS.
But since then the terrorist organization — now with tens of thousands of fighters — has beheaded four Westerners, including two Americans and two Brits. They have threatened to kill more in retaliation against the U.S. and its allies for bombing ISIS strongholds in Iraq.
Though Carter is largely considered a pacifist, he says he supports a “boots on the ground” strategy to fight ISIS.
“If we keep on working in Iraq and have some ground troops to follow up when we do our bombing, there is a possibility of success,” he said.
“You have to have somebody on the ground to direct our missiles and to be sure you have the right target,” Carter said. “Then you have to have somebody to move in and be willing to fight ISIS after the strikes.”
Carter also criticized Obama from familiar territory, slamming the administration’s use of drones to kill American citizens overseas.
“I really object to the killing of people, particularly Americans overseas who haven’t been brought to justice and put on trial,” he told the Star-Telegram. “We’ve killed four Americans overseas with American drones. To me, that violates our Constitution and human rights.”