STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's swing to the other side of the political spectrum. We've been talking this week with Senator Bernie Sanders. He's a self-described Socialist who aligns with Democrats and he's talking of running for president in 2016. Yesterday we heard Sanders's critique of Democrats' economic policies. Today we hear his support for a key part of President Obama's foreign policy. Senator Sanders opposed the Iraq war, but he favors the president's limited intervention now in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.
If you were sitting in the White House tomorrow, what if anything would you change about the U.S. approach to battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I think on the very difficult circumstances and dealing with the consequences of this horrendous war in Iraq that we never should've gotten in in the first place, which I vigorously opposed, I think the president is doing, you know, moving us in the right direction. My own view is that if we're going to be successful in defeating this brutal organization called ISIS, what needs to happen is that the people in the region - the Muslim nations - are going to have to take the responsibility of leading that effort. It cannot be the United States of America. In many ways I think that's exactly what ISIS wants. They want this to be a war of the United States versus ISIS, of the West versus the East, of Christianity versus Islam. What has got to happen is countries like Saudi Arabia - which, by the way has the fourth largest defense budget in the world. People don't know this. Their defense budget is larger than the U.K. or France. You know, they're going to have to step up to the plate and take the leadership in fighting ISIS.
INSKEEP: Is there a level on which you were satisfied with the president's efforts because you don't want to be too involved in this part of the world and he's doing the minimum possible, or the minimum necessary?
SANDERS: Well, let me be very clear. I am very worried that some of my Republican colleagues really are prepared to get us into a never-ending perpetual war in the Middle East and I think that that is horrific.
INSKEEP: We had an interview on the program this week with a man who is living in a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus - this is an area that's not held by ISIS, it's a different rebel group that's fighting there against the regime of Bashar al-Assad - and I asked, what do people where you are think about U.S. policy? And he said, people think either that the U.S. is stupid or that they don't care.
Is he right about that?
SANDERS: No, I don't think...
INSKEEP: That the United States is not really concerned about rebels other than ISIS?
SANDERS: Well, the United States has a lot to be concerned about, you know, and we should be concerned, absolutely, about the Assad regime. We should be concerned about ISIS. We should be concerned about the terrible poverty that exists in Africa and parts of Asia, but we should also be concerned that in America, our middle class is disappearing, that we have more people living in poverty than almost any time in the history of this country and we should also be concerned that for the last many, many years, it has been the United States and the tax payers of this country and the armed forces of this country that have done almost all of the work.
INSKEEP: Senator Sanders, thanks very much.
SANDERS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Bernie Sanders, who's thinking of a presidential run.
It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.