Will the last Democrat to bail on President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East please turn out the lights? From an interview with Jimmy Carter published by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
“Carter said it was hard to figure out exactly what President Obama’s policy is in the Middle East.
“‘It changes from time to time,’ Carter said. ‘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.’ …
“Carter acknowledged that the ISIS situation is complicated and he thinks the U.S. waited too long to respond.
“‘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,’ he said. ‘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.'”
One of those former defense secretaries, Leon Panetta, has a new book in which he specifies the time for action in Syria was in the fall of 2012, a year before Obama proposed and then decided against intervening in Syria or arming the rebels. Carter also suggested the U.S. will have to deploy ground troops in Iraq, and he criticized Obama’s drone policy.
What’s interesting about this development is what it signals about the speed with which Obama’s support from his own party is eroding. The other defense secretary to whom Carter alluded, Robert Gates, could at least be written off as a Republican appointee of George W. Bush who stayed on after Obama took over. Carter and Panetta are as solidly Democratic as it gets, and as Time’s Sam Frizell reminds us, Hillary Clinton has already jumped off the Obama foreign-policy bandwagon. Panetta and Clinton’s criticism could be chalked up to the latter’s need to keep Obama’s mistakes from hurting her own presidential ambitions. But what, then, to make of Carter’s words, given that he was more in the Obama camp than the Clinton camp back in 2008?
There are implications for the rest of Obama’s presidency: Imagine if he has to rely chiefly on GOP support for his efforts in Iraq and Syria, especially if Republicans take control of the Senate. And there are of course implications for the race to succeed him, most of all on the Democratic side, where loyalty to Obama could be set against loyalty to Clinton as other Democrats enter the fray. Foreign policy will be one of the main ways for other Democrats to distinguish themselves vs. Clinton.
Locally, Senate candidate Michelle Nunn attacked her GOP opponent, David Perdue, during last night’s debate in Perry for not supporting air strikes against Syria a year ago rather than focusing on the president’s backtracking on the issue. Perdue faulted Obama for not leaving a residual force behind in Iraq and because the president “had no plan (a year ago) and he has no plan now.”