All the Republican White House hopefuls in 2016 are attacking President Obama's "failed" strategy for dealing with ISIS, but few candidates are offering details about what they would do differently, and the ones that are want to put thousands of US troops back in Iraq. And none of them can even begin to be taken seriously.
Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum want to deploy 10,000 American troops in Iraq as part of a coalition with Arab nations against Islamic State militants, and will settle for nothing less than “destroying the caliphate,” in Mr. Graham’s words.
Jeb Bush believes those additional American soldiers would have prevented the Islamic State from gathering strength in recent years. But an American-led force now? “I don’t think that will work,” he said in an interview Friday, his latest sign of wariness at the prospect of becoming the third President Bush to dispatch ground troops to the Middle East.
Marco Rubio describes his strategy against the Islamic State with a line from the action movie “Taken” — “we will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you” — yet he is more inclined to provide “the most devastating air support possible” rather than send in American troops.Scott Walker and Rick Perry are more open to a combat mission, while Rand Paul wants boots on the ground — as long as they are “Arab boots on the ground.”
Naturally, this is the biggest problem for Jeb Bush.
Mr. Bush is among the most elusive. At times he sounds bellicose: “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” against the Islamic State, he said in February. The next monthhe endorsed creating “a protected zone in northeast Syria where you could allow for an army to be built, both a Syrian free army and international soldiers with air power from the United States.” Yet Mr. Bush has not laid out substantive details for such aggressive actions.
At other times, he sounds uncertain: He recently floundered for days about whether he would have invaded Iraq in 2003 — and then found himself defending President George W. Bush, his brother, from a college student’s charge that he “created” the Islamic State by disbanding Saddam Hussein’s powerful army.
As for the role of American ground troops in the Middle East, Mr. Bush was more ambiguous than adamant last week.
“Whether we need more than 3,000, which is what we have now, I would base that on what the military advisers say,” Mr. Bush said Wednesday in New Hampshire. On Friday, after a speech in Oklahoma City, he said former military officials had told him that American forces “should embed in the Iraqi military.”
“The Canadians and French do,” he continued, “but we’re prohibited. That’s just remarkable.”
So no, Jeb doesn't have any clue what we should be doing in Iraq right now. And he'll just change his mind and flip-flop another 50 times between now and November 2016.
None of the Republicans have anything more than movie quotes and scary rhetoric.