How big of a danger is ISIS?

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," August 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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Hi, I'm Juan Williams in for Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.

Let's get straight to our "Top Story". How big a danger does the ISIS terrorist group pose to America? After listening to all those mixed messages from the Obama administration over the last 24 hours, you might not know the answer. I know I don't.

Earlier today Ben Rhodes the deputy national security advisor attempted to clarify how the people in the White House view the savage beheading of James Foley this week by ISIS terrorists.


RHODES: Well absolutely when you see somebody killed in such a horrific way that represents a terrorist attack that represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen. And I think all of us have the Foley family in our thoughts and prayers.


WILLIAMS: That response followed a series of conflicting statements on the ISIS threat from top officials just yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not about ISIS versus the United States I think I made that clear yesterday. They are killing anyone who gets in their way.

HAGEL: They are an imminent threat to every interest we have whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else. ISIL is a sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen -- they're beyond just a terrorist group.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile some lawmakers are sounding every alarm they can about the risk that ISIS poses to us right here in the United States.


SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: They are crazy out there. And they are rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major U.S. city and people just can't believe that's happening.

ISIS they are -- they are really bad terrorists. They are so bad that al Qaeda is afraid of them.


WILLIAMS: Joining us now from Little Rock Arkansas, General Wesley Clark the former supreme allied commander for NATO. General Clark simple question, why aren't the United States military -- why isn't the Obama administration destroying ISIS right now this moment today?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I think what you are seeing is a changing policy. I think you're going to see the United States increasingly targeting ISIS, putting more and more combat power to bear against ISIS. But Juan the most important thing here is that the nations in the region they are on the front lines and they've got to step forward and do their part. And the United States is encouraging them to do that.

And the solution is not just military it's also political. The new Prime Minister in Iraq has got to bring that country together so that the people who are in uniform have loyalty to the government and will fight for the government.

WILLIAMS: So you don't see this as the United States looking out for American interests in trying to cut off the head of this snake at this moment right now before they are able to gain such strength that they can come and threaten us here at home and create another 9/11?

CLARK: No. I think it would be great if we can cut off the head of the snake right now. And I think we are trying to do that but we're not going to do that alone by ourselves in isolation. We can do a certain amount, but we're basically the force multiplier for the nations in the region who are themselves directly threatened.

Now the most threatened nation is Saudi Arabia. And they should be taking the lead in this. So I'm not sure that we've seen the Saudis hand in fighting ISIS. I would like to see them take the lead. And bring the rest of the Sunni world together to crush ISIS.

WILLIAMS: Ok but I want you to get back to what the United States has to do to protect its own interests, General. So let me start very simply again I want to be very simple and direct with you should the United States go into Syria where ISIS is headquartered and attack them there? In other words, not only air strikes but potentially boots on the ground to knock out their headquarters, knock out their training facilities, knock out their assets, you know, should we be doing that?

CLARK: Well I think that we're going to have to be able to target them and use the resources that are appropriate. I don't know what your phrase boots on the ground necessarily means. We've got special forces in there right now they are wearing combat boots there. U.S. servicemen on the ground. But I don't see putting 101st or the tenth mountain division in there or 82nd airborne because right now it doesn't call for that what it does call for is a special operation forces that calls for airstrikes it calls for other combat capabilities.


WILLIAMS: Well wait a second hold on, hold on. You say it doesn't call for that I doesn't -- look, I'm not trying to be, you know, apoplectic here. But I'm just saying goodness gracious everybody is saying these people now are more sophisticated, here I'm quoting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey who said there are more sophisticated and have more equipment than anybody has seen before in terms of a terrorist group. And you're saying no, maybe we shouldn't -- we just wait and have somebody else pick up the fight. Why General, why?

CLARK: I think you've got to find the most effective way to go after this threat. The most effective way to go after this threat is to have people in the region who speak the language, know the culture, can identify who the fighters are, target them. And then call on U.S. assets for combat multipliers. We will be there. We will be there working with them. But right now, that's the way that I would see it.

Now, General Dempsey may have other ideas. The President may have other ideas. And I would never rule out as a certainty that you will put the 101st or the 10th Mountain or the First Cavalry Division back into the region. All of that is possible.

But right now, it seems to me just looking at it as an outsider, somebody who has got some experience in this, I would not put those forces in at this point. I would use the forces on the ground who are fluent in the language and who are already there, use Special Forces with combat multipliers then.

WILLIAMS: Well that's an interesting point you are making. Wait a second. You said something here that's news to me. Which you said that we the United States of America have Special Forces already on the ground in Syria?

CLARK: I didn't say in Syria. I said in the region. Now, turning to Syria, directly, Juan, well I would say that you can't give the enemy a sanctuary. So I would assume that plans are underway and efforts are going to be made to take the fight to ISIS in Syria.

I think the United States knows that they can't provide a sanctuary there. So you know let's give the United States and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President the benefit of the doubt. Give them a couple of days to plan an operation that makes sense before they get too much public heat on this. Nobody understands that threat more clearly than what Secretary Hagel said yesterday.

So, if you listen to him and Chairman Dempsey, we're going after those people. And there will be no sanctuary.

WILLIAMS: And you think that the Saudis are really going to get into this fight? You know, I'm sorry, General, I just don't see it coming. I know we give them lots of military equipment. Lots of money. But I don't see them having ever led the fight.

CLARK: They just -- they just signed a contract about three months ago for $60 billion worth of U.S. military hardware. I'm sure our defense manufacturers appreciate it but the Saudis have the wherewith all to do something. They are pretty effective on their border with Yemen. So I would like to see them come forth now. After all, the greatest threat has to be to the Saudis. They control Mecca and Medina and how can any Islamic group expect to be accepted as a caliphate think that if Saudis are still there in Mecca and Medina. So they should be fighting.


WILLIAMS: Yes I'm worried about here. I'm worried about the United States and I'm worried about attacks here.

General Clark thanks for coming. And we really appreciate it.

CLARK: Thank you, Juan.

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