In principle, was the Iraq War a good idea?
At this point, everybody agrees that that was a huge strategic error. If you watch, for instance, what’s going on in the Republican debate for the presidency, you see, overwhelmingly, everyone on both sides of the aisle seems to agree that was a mistake. And that’s something I understood that at the time, and Senator Blunt did not.
Should President Obama should have kept troops in Iraq instead of a complete withdrawal?
I think that the focus at this point has got to be what we do now. That’s why, for instance, the president’s speech, for me—I feel the president could have done a better job explaining what we need to do now to combat ISIS rather than talk about what we’ve been doing. And I didn’t hear much new from the president the other night.
You don’t think the president did a good job addressing the nation about ISIS?
I thought the president could have done a better job.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the president’s handling of ISIS?
I’m not going to get in to doing scales of 1 to 10, because then you don’t know what you’re comparing it against. I think it’s very clear that we need an aggressive strategy from the president. But we also need a more aggressive strategy from Congress. We need Congress to do more than just engage in partisan games. And so far that’s not what we’ve seen.
Specifically, what should Obama do better?
We have to be willing to engage ISIS militarily, economically, and even on the Internet without delay. For instance, I think we waited too long to engage al-Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan. And we should not make a similar mistake with ISIS elements throughout the world.
So you think we should send additional troops in Syria or Iraq?
Ground troops … have to be a last resort. I think they should always be a last resort. But as I think we have that conversation going forward, we need to make sure it’s not just a conversation of whether we should send people in, but also how those people get out. I think in the past we have not always had that conversation. But it’s clear that as we go forward, if military leaders say that that is the only way we are going to be able to destroy ISIS, then that’s what we’re going to have to.
Aren’t we close to that last resort now?
One of the things we definitely need to do in the short run, we need to make sure there’s a collation in place willing to be a part of any military force. It’s clear that Sunni Arab nations in the area, for instance, need to be part of any coalition. But again, my criteria is that American troops should be a last resort.
But you’re not ruling them out?
Do you agree with President Obama’s Republican critics that the president has mishandled global affairs more broadly than just ISIS?
I’ve been disappointed with just about everybody in Washington when it comes to this issue and many others. I don’t think this is an exception.