House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) didn’t mince words in a new interview that aired this morning on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. The top Republican lawmaker in Washington said that if President Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS fail to defeat the terror group – and he thinks they will fail – the U.S. will need to send in ground troops.
“At some point somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Boehner said. He added that instead of training Syrian rebels and relying on other countries, those boots would likely have to be Americans’.
“We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us … and if we don’t destroy them first, we’re going to pay the price.”
The Obama administration has for weeks insisted it will not put U.S. troops on the ground and engage in another long ground war in the Middle East. Instead, the focus in the ISIS battle has been the airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition – which now includes the U.K, Denmark and Belgium – as well as training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.
White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken on Sunday applauded the airstrike effort in Syria. He added that the Syrian rebel forces will not only play a key role in fighting ISIS but also in facing the Assad regime.
“The moderate opposition is key to both being a counterweight on the ground to [ISIS], and then, over time, also being a counterweight to Assad,” Blinken said.
Boehner and others, however, have questioned the effectiveness of the rebels in the fight against the terror group. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told CNN, “I don’t think we have a partner in the Free Syrian Army who ultimately can win that fight militarily, so I worry you get sucked into a long-term conflict.”
Lawmakers have also been critical of the president for not sending any proposal for war authorizations to Capitol Hill. Though Congress left Washington last week to campaign for the midterm elections, Boehner said if the president asked, he would call them back immediately.
“The president typically in a situation like this would call for an authorization vote and go sell that to the American people and send a resolution to the Hill,” he said. “The president has not done that.”
On the campaign trail, foreign policy has also taken center stage. The National Republican Congressional Committee, for example, hasn’t wasted any time in airing ads attacking the president’s ISIS strategy.
Americans are watching the issue closely. A Washington Post poll from earlier this month found that 71 percent of Americans support U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The same poll found that a majority of respondents believe Obama has been too cautious in the fight against ISIS.
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