Republicans blasted President Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against the International State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) Sunday, calling them too soft. They warned that the group posed a dire threat to the United States.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has long criticized Obama for not using force, said that the president’s current strategy would be ineffective given the conditions in northern Iraq. There, tens of thousands of Christians are being targeted for execution by ISIS.
“Launching three strikes in an area around where a horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place … while ISIS continues to make gains everywhere, is very, very ineffective, to say the least,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union.
“That’s not a strategy, that’s not a policy,” McCain added, referring to the president’s goal of simply stopping the humanitarian crisis as opposed to taking out ISIS. “That is simply a very narrow and focused approach to a problem that is metastasizing as we speak.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoed McCain’s comments. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Graham called on Obama to widen the airstrikes to Syria, where ISIS was born. “If we don’t hit ‘em in Syria, you’ll never solve the problem in Iraq,” Graham said.
Graham added that if Obama doesn’t expand operations, ISIS would target the American homeland.
“So, Mr. President, you have never once spoken directly to the American people about the threat we face from being attacked from Syria, now Iraq. What is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland? They have expressed a desire to do so," he said.
“This is not a replacement for a strategy to deal with an existential threat to the homeland,” Graham continued. “To every member of Congress, we've been told by every major intelligence leader in our nation that we're threatened. The homeland is threatened by the presence of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. To change that threat, we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense."
Without this, Graham argued, it was inevitable ISIS would target the west.
“If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL - whatever you want to call these guys - they are coming here," Graham said. "This is just not about Baghdad, this is just not about Syria, this is about our homeland. And if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats viewed the president’s strategy differently. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MI), appearing on Fox News Sunday, said that the United States did not have the ability to defeat ISIS with air firepower. He said that the solution to stop the group was political.
“I don't think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view from the use of our airstrikes. That's not going to solve the problem,” he said. “The fundamental problem is whether the Iraqis believe they have a representative government so that Sunnis feel comfortable with the government in Baghdad. I think that's going to be the key to cutting off the type of permanent support that ISIS could otherwise have."
Cardin’s comments did little to deter Republicans, who continued their attacks on the president on Meet the Press.
"They are more powerful now than al Qaeda was on 9/11," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said. "I lost hundreds of constituents on 9/11. I never want to do that again."
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