Mitt Romney, in an exclusive interview with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, says he'd send thousands of U.S. troops to Syria to stop Islamic extremists in the wake of the Paris attacks if he were president.
"If we don't change our course and take this seriously and go to war against ISIS, we're going to see what happened in Paris, happen in the United States," the former GOP presidential candidate said about the president's handling of the terrorist group.
Romney agreed with Obama's characterization of ISIS as a cancer, but said the president has been too soft in his strategy.
"When it's a cancer, you go at it heavy and hard at the beginning. If you don’t and if it mestasticizes like this has, the consequences can be very,very severe for decades, so it’s time for us to get serious about this," he said.
The criticism comes a day after Romney lambasted the Obama administration for failing to do enough to contain ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“After Paris, it’s clear: Doing the minimum won’t make us safe. It’s time the president stopped hedging and took meaningful steps to defend us and our allies,” Romney wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece published Sunday.
The former governor, who lost to Obama in the 2012 election, said the nation must wage war to strike down ISIS, even if it means deploying American ground troops in ISIS strongholds.
“Only America can lead this war, and that leadership means being willing to devote whatever resources are required to win — even boots on the ground," he wrote. "We have the best-equipped and most dedicated military for good reason. The president must stop trying to placate his political base by saying what he won’t do and tell Americans what he will do."
Romney spoke out at a time Republican Party strategists have reportedly renewed talks about drafting the former Massachusetts governor to the current presidential race. But Romney, who also ran in 2008, has said he has no plans to run a third time for the White House.
"I’m not running, I’m not planning on running," he told Guthrie. "I’m very much engaged in the political battles but I’m doing it as a supporter of Republicans out of conservatism rather than an active candidate."
Romney said of the current slate of Republican candidates running for the high office, he sees "maybe two or three" who could potentially win the general election "and I think those people will have the experience necessary to lead our country at a very, very important time both domestically and internationally." But he would not identify which candidates he was speaking of.
Romney also defended his push to call the battle against ISIS a "war" against radical Islam, saying "words do matter because it’s not just a military conflict, it’s also an ideological conflict," one which powerful Middle East nations will have a role in shaping.
"We’re going to have to rely on the world of Islam, major Islamic nations to take the lead in helping promote a very different view of Islam — peace and understanding, as opposed to the radicalization going on," he said. "The Saudis and UAE and Qatar and others are going to have to take a leading role in changing hearts and minds in the world of Islam."