mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Let’s Talk Specifics”: Seven Things That Show The GOP Candidates Are Clueless About The Islamic State

As everyone knows, when it comes to fighting the Islamic State, Barack Obama is a weak and feckless president who has no strategy to defeat this terrifying enemy. The Republicans running to replace him, on the other hand, are ready to go with their strong and decisive strategies — just put one of them in office and let him implement his strategy, and this whole thing will be mopped up forthwith.

That’s what they say, of course. But the truth is that they have no clue what to do about this problem. To a degree, you can’t blame them — if there was an easy solution, the administration certainly would have been more than happy to use it. The trouble is that there are nothing but bad options. But presidential candidates aren’t supposed to express caution and concern about unintended consequences. They have to be confident and strong, assuring voters that there’s no problem they can’t solve.

But if you want to know how to spot a candidate who has no idea what to do about the Islamic State, a good place to start is this interview with Ted Cruz by Molly O’Toole of Defense One. O’Toole does exactly what I’m constantly begging reporters to do — not accuse the candidate of being a hypocrite or asking him to criticize his opponents, but demand specificity. That’s how we learn whether he’s just blowing smoke. Unfortunately, Cruz is a champion smoke-blower, and he evades most of her questions until they get too uncomfortable, at which point he literally shuts a door in her face (an elevator door, in this case).

In the course of this brief interview, Cruz hits on most of the key tells that make clear Republicans have no more of a strategy for the Islamic State than anybody else. Here’s a list of things to watch out for when candidates are talking about their “strategies”:

  1. We need a leader who leads, with leadership. This idea is expressed in various ways; in this case, Cruz starts explaining how he’d fight the Islamic State by saying that “We didn’t win the Cold War until we had a president who stood up and led…” Another way of putting it is, as Marco Rubio and others have said, that Obama lacks the proper “sense of urgency” about the problem. But that’s not a strategy, it’s a feeling. Saying “I’ll feel differently than Obama does when I’m in the Oval Office” doesn’t tell us anything about what a candidate would actually do.
  2. Bomb the hell out of them. This sounds strong and resolute, but it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve been bombing pretty much every target we can find. According to the Air Force, as of the end of November we had dropped 31,873 bombs and missiles in this operation. It’s true that the military has taken care not to kill significant numbers of civilians, which is a challenge because the Islamic State controls a number of cities. In theory we could just “carpet-bomb” those cities, as Cruz proposes (he says “carpet-bomb ISIS,” but when it’s pointed out to him that they’re located in cities, he evades the question of whether he actually wants to carpet-bomb cities), but that would be extraordinarily counter-productive, not to mention morally abominable and probably a war crime. And yes, despite what Republicans would have you believe, we are bombing their oil facilities. So “Bomb them, but, you know, more” isn’t a strategy either.
  3. Arm the Kurds. This sounds like a good idea — the Kurds are our allies, and they’ve been extremely successful in fighting the Islamic State where they have chosen to do so. The problem (other than the fact that our ally Turkey is deeply opposed to anything that would strengthen them) is that the Kurds have their own agenda in Iraq and Syria, one that isn’t exactly the same as ours. They’ll happily fight to take control of Kurdish areas, but they aren’t interested in becoming an occupying army in Arab areas. You can make a case that arming the Kurds is a good thing, despite Turkey’s objections. But giving them more arms isn’t going to rout the Islamic State out of most of the places where it exists.
  4. Get somebody else’s boots on the ground. With the partial exception of Lindsey Graham, all the Republican candidates acknowledge to one degree or another that an American invasion is going to cause more trouble than it’s worth. So the answer many offer is to assemble an army of boots from our coalition partners, preferably Sunni Arabs, who can go in there and occupy the area without generating so much resistance and resentment from the local population. And how will they convince countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia that have been unwilling so far to contribute those troops to do so? Well…they just will. With strength and resolve, I guess. If they can’t say why those countries will be willing to do a year from now what they’re unwilling to do today, they’re expressing a fantasy, not a plan.
  5. A no-fly zone. There are reasonable arguments for and against establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria. But it has nothing to do with the Islamic State, which doesn’t have an air force. If you want to argue that a no-fly zone is necessary to stop Bashar al-Assad from bombing civilians, that’s fine. But you can’t pretend it does something to hasten the Islamic State’s demise.
  6. Do whatever is necessary. This is a clear tell that the candidate has run out of ideas, but just wants to communicate toughness and resolve. Ted Cruz says this a lot. It’s a way of saying you’ll do something without actually saying what you’ll do. And of course…
  7. Call it “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” This magical incantation, once uttered by the commander in chief, is supposed to bring us to the very brink of victory. But how? Here’s a question I’d like to hear a Republican candidate answer. Let’s say that tomorrow, President Obama said, “You know what? My critics are right. We are facing Radical Islamic Terrorism.” What would change?

The answer is: nothing. And if someone is arguing that the most important thing we need to do in order to accomplish a goal is something that will do nothing to accomplish that goal, it’s a good sign that they don’t have any actual ideas.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, December 11, 2015

December 15, 2015 - Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, ISIS, Terrorism | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I found it amusing that after Rubio bashed the President, he basically echoed what the President is already doing.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | December 15, 2015 | Reply


Share your comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: