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Bill Clinton: ‘I strongly agree with’ Obama’s ISIS strategy

Updated

A majority of Americans support military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and apparently, so does Bill Clinton.

In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff on Friday that covered topics ranging from Russia to Michael Brown, the former president weighed in on President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist group, which Obama explained in a prime-time address Wednesday night.

“I think they can win. But it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick.”
Bill Clinton
Well, this group, I think they can be degraded and eventually destroyed if and only if the people they are abusing are willing to fight,” Clinton said. “In other words, the strategy [Obama] outlined – which I strongly agree with – requires us to use air power and people on the ground to give training and support and intelligence, and to bring in equipment they need so it’ll be a fair fight.”

But, Clinton warned, there’s one big caveat: “[E]ver since Vietnam, we have learned that if the United States goes anywhere in the world to fight – I hate sports analogies, but essentially it’s an away game, and we need to be backing a home team.” 

Fortunately, Clinton believes we are well-positioned to do just that. “And now,” Clinton said, “because of the changes in the Iraqi government, it appears that the Sunni tribal chiefs are once again, having been abused by ISIS as they were by al-Qaida in Iraq, are willing to fight, and this time looks like they’re going to be involved in a more unified Iraqi government. … We need to keep them equipped, trained, full of intelligence, and give them support.”

As to the ease with which our mission can be accomplished, Clinton expressed cautious optimism, saying, “I think they can win. But it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick.”

Earlier Friday, White House and Pentagon officials said for the first time that the United States is “at war” with ISIS in the same way it is with al-Qaida.

On the topic of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Clinton insisted the United States is not powerless against Putin’s aggression. U.S.-imposed sanctions, he believes, will ultimately be effective. Moreover, Clinton thinks Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “is probably the best president Ukraine could have right now. He is a responsible, strong man.”

Turning to American politics, Clinton was unwilling to concede to the notion that Republicans will take over control of the Senate come November. “I don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” Clinton said, “but I’m going to get caught trying to help all over the country.” Pushed to make a prediction, Clinton said, “I think we have a slightly better than 50% chance to hold the Congress,” and, “ I’m not with the skeptics. I think we’re going to do better than people think.”

Finally, Woodruff asked Clinton about the state of race relations in America in light of the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer. “There is still a racial divide in this country,” Clinton admitted, adding that “police forces need to more or less approximate what the population of a community is.” 

Two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African-American, yet of the 53 police officers serving on the force, only four are black. 

Melissa Harris-Perry, 8/17/14, 11:00 AM ET

Ferguson police force 'overwhelmingly' white

Although more than two thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African American, its police force and elected representatives are “overwhelmingly” white. State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and former Mayor of Ferguson Brian Fletcher join to discuss.

Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ferguson, ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Russia, Syria and Ukraine

Bill Clinton: 'I strongly agree with' Obama's ISIS strategy

Updated