In a rare turn from his typical pacifist platform, former president Jimmy Carter publicly agreed that the government needs to attack ISIS (also known as ISIL, the Islamic State, or Da’esh). Carter’s endorsement of the kind-of war, since it’s still not clear if the military strikes are officially war or not, may be a sign of situation’s desperation.
Speaking at a Carter Center event, the former president said this,
“I think we need to attack ISIS, I’m really concerned about them, you know.”
Of course, Carter did not endorse the idea of a ground war, something President Obama has already ruled out a number of times. Jimmy Carter believes that U.S. ground troops would not be particularly effective in Syria, but hopes that some ally will fill in the gap to fight ISIS face-to-face.
“Is the bombing of ISIS justified? I say yes. And I hope that President Obama has every possible success in getting allies to join with us, some with ground troops that are effective inside Syria.”
By supporting the military strikes, Jimmy Carter joins with the vast majority of voices that agree that bombing is justified. Yet, the statement was still surprising.
Carter has a long-established pacifist stance towards foreign countries, diplomatically avoiding saying anything that might offend another government. In China, the former president even denied White House statements that China was behaving like a free-rider in Iraq.
In the Middle East, the 2002 Noble Prize winner is particularly tolerant of certain groups, even calling for western states to recognize the terrorist group Hamas as a legitimate political actor in the region. Despite his diplomacy elsewhere, Jimmy Carter has spoken out numerous times against the policies of Israel.
Nevertheless, not all terrorist organizations are the same, and for ex-president Carter, ISIS crosses a line that few groups can reach.
Even though Jimmy Carter is on board, the various allies commitment to battle seem ambiguous. Ten countries in the region have joined the coalition to fight ISIS, but they might not actually be “fighting” the terrorist group.
ISIS has declared jihad against Saudi Arabia and has Jordan in its cross-hairs, but both countries have stopped short of committing actual forces. It’s hard to imagine Saudi Arabians have the same sense of outrage as Western countries. ISIS may have beheaded two victims, but Saudi Arabia beheaded eight people last month alone.
As for Turkey, 49 consulate officers are being held hostage by ISIS, making their military involvement less active, lest they see their men executed. However, critics of Turkey’s Islamist leader, Erdogan, believe the reluctant NATO ally does not want to help fight ISIS because the terror group is very useful in Turkey’s decades old war against Kurdish independence.
Jimmy Carter may hope that an ally will come forward to fight on the ground, but that might be the most difficult part of the coalition building.
[Image Credit: Trikosko, Marion S./Wikimedia Commons]