Escalation Nation: GOP Pushes to Return US Combat Troops to Iraq
September 14, 2014
Martin Matishak / The Hill & Igor Bobic / The Huffington Post
The Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee insists that US ground troops will be required to meet the president's objective of destroying Islamic State terrorists. Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul has criticized White House plans to arm and train Syrian opposition forces, a key element of President Obama's new strategy to destroy Islamic State militants in the Middle East. Senator Paul believes "arming the same side as ISIS was and is a strategic error."
Republican: ISIS Can't Be Stopped
Without Troops on the Ground
Martin Matishak / The Hill
(September 9, 2014) -- The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday said US ground troops will be required to meet President Obama's objective of destroying Islamic State terrorists.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said full military divisions won't have to be sent to Iraq and Syria, but that it will require putting US soldiers in harm's way.
"It will not take divisions. But there's no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand," he said. "Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There's simply no other way to do this."
He noted that Obama has already sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq to counter the threat of terrorists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In a prime-time address Wednesday night, Obama announced he would send another 475 advisers to the country.
McKeon confessed that his strategy "isn't without risk" but that the US can't rely solely on counterterrorism efforts because it would not stop ISIS from spreading.
"I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow," he said. "We need a comprehensive strategy -- one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out," he said, using another acronym for the terrorist organization.
American voters have been leery of using ground troops after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though recent polls have shown support for more muscular actions against ISIS, which has brutally executive two American journalists.
Several Republican lawmakers have said ground troops should not be ruled out, but Obama in his speech insisted they would not be sent to Iraq.
McKeon was critical of Obama's approach to ISIS, arguing he had repeatedly bowed to policies and suggesting he wasn't doing enough to counter the threat.
"As much as I want the president's approach to work, I believe the minimalist strategy he outlined last night will not get us there," McKeon said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
McKeon accused Obama of allowing "politics to limit our chances for success." He endorsed a few pieces of Obama's plan, including acting through an international coalition; ordering more airstrikes; stepping up intelligence collection; and training and equipping moderate rebel forces in Syria.
But he said Obama's strategy should acknowledge that ISIS is "an immediate threat to US national security." Obama's remarks Wednesday night stopped short of that, saying ISIS had the potential to threaten the homeland. The outgoing lawmaker said the US must "kick ISIL hard in both Iraq and Syria" simultaneously.
While he admitted that striking militants in Syria would "not be easy," McKeon said an "'Iraq-first' or an 'Iraq only' approach won't work" and backed the president's push to arm and train moderate Syrian forces.
He later predicted Obama's legacy would be determined on how he fights ISIS over the rest of his term. "He needs to zero in on this," according to McKeon.
Rand Paul Opposes Obama's Plan To
Arm Syrian Rebels In Fight Against ISIS
Igor Bobic / The Huffington Post
(September 9, 2014) WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) does not support arming and training Syrian opposition forces, a key element of President Barack Obama's new strategy to destroy Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
"Senator Paul believes arming the same side as ISIS was and is a strategic error and would oppose such action," Paul's senior aide, Doug Stafford, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.
The news was first reported by The Daily Beast.
In a prime-time address from the White House on Wednesday evening, the president announced he would expand US airstrikes against militants "wherever they are," including potentially Iraq's war-torn neighbor, Syria. He also asked Congress for additional authority to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels who have waged war against President Bashar Assad for three years, to fight the extremists threatening the region.
"In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost," Obama said. "Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all."
By opposing the arming of opposition forces in Syria, Paul echoed Sen. Mark Begich, a vulnerable Democrat up for re-election in Alaska, who expressed similar concern that US arms would end up in the wrong hands. In a statement following the president's speech, Begich said he was "gravely concerned by reports of ISIS seizing and utilizing US weapons intended for those fighting against" Assad.
Appearing on Fox News shortly after Obama's remarks, Paul, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, further disagreed with the president about whether America was "safer" as a country.
"No, absolutely not. Libya is a disaster. Syria is a disaster. Iraq is a disaster, Iraq is chaotic," Paul told Fox host Sean Hannity.
The Kentucky Republican, a possible presidential contender, said he supports an air campaign to destroy the extremists. But he said he believes Obama violated the Constitution by not first seeking congressional approval before ordering U.S airplanes back into Iraq earlier this summer.
"It isn't the constitutional way. It doesn't in any way represent what our Constitution dictates nor what our Founding Fathers intended. So it is unconstitutional what he's doing," he said.
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