2016 Presidential Candidates’ Stance on ISIS
Let’s be honest. It’s sometimes impossible to know what a candidate’s stance is on an issue. With primetime debates, social media posts, and endless speeches to voters, candidates have to speak to a lot of voters on a wide assortment of topics.
As we enter into the 2016 presidential primary season and get closer to the election, voters will begin to decide who will be the next president. Here at Veterans Action Network, we want to develop a clear composite of where the candidates stand on the issues that are important to Veterans.
In this blog we’re going to see what Republicans and Democrats have to say about ISIS. Foreign policy is a crucial campaign issue. The next president will inherit a number of dangerous and complicated foreign policy situations. High on the list is ISIS.
In 2014 the Salafi–Sunni extremists, prime contributors in the destabilization of the Middle East, decided to form a caliphate from portions of Syria and Western Iraq. Unfortunately, a combination of extortion, captured oil fields, and ransom money provides them with an estimated income of $1 million per day. Some assessments put their “earnings” at $80 million a month.
ISIS attacked Paris, attacked a popular European resort in Tunisia, brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt, and are now allegedly inspiring lone wolf terrorist attacks in the United States. ISIS’s surging influence combined with the cataclysmic refugee situation throws another log on the fire. Long story short, we need to look at what the candidates are saying and how they propose to deal with this terrorism.
Below, you will find what each of the major Republican and Democrat candidates have publicly communicated about the threat of ISIS, and how the United States will work to remove their influence and power from the Middle East.
This Democratic front-runner has a lot of faith in our “allies.” Clinton uses phrases like “…empowering our partners to defeat terrorism” and “…rallying our partners and allies, pulling countries off the sidelines…” According to a November 2015 article from theguardian, she wants more American troops to embed with the Iraq military, more American Special Forces in Syria, and an “intelligence surge” for more airstrikes against ISIS.
Clinton’s strategy is not much different from President Obama’s current strategy, other than calling for even more boots on the ground.
What can we say about the senator from Vermont? In September 2014 Sanders said he doesn’t want the United States leading the fight against ISIS. During a November 2015 Georgetown speech, Sanders said he wants to work with Russia to help defeat ISIS. It’s safe to say Sanders will likely never be president, and his policy—or lack thereof—to combat ISIS shows that is probably a good thing.
This fiery Republican front-runner and real-estate tycoon/reality television show promotor/hair mogul has said all kinds of things about ISIS. Trump’s actual strategy or policy has been hard to pin down, but one of the highlights includes: “Why aren’t we letting ISIS go and fight Assad and then we pick up the remnants?” which was said during a September 2015 60 Minutes interview.
Trump also said he “loves the idea of the U.S. and Russia working together to root out the Islamic State,” and that the Iraqis and American Veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan should be given money from captured oil fields in Syria. Does Trump know that Russia and Syria are close allies, and Russia’s only military base in the Mediterranean Sea is located in Tartus, Syria?
Some of Carson’s foreign policy accolades have not helped his reputation as an outsider. Although he is light on specifics, Carson could have one of the harsher strategies to combat ISIS based on a few of his comments.
Specifically, in February 2015 Carson said “…we need to eliminate all ‘rules’ in the fight against ISIS if we ever want to win” and “There is no such thing as a politically correct war.” Carson has said he would target oil fields in Syria, block the group’s propaganda on social media, and ban refugees from entering the United States.
The Senator from Florida is one of the few candidates to have an entire section of his campaign website dedicated to an ISIS strategy. Some of the highlights include his plans to: “Build a multilateral coalition, increase airstrikes, oust Assad and improve training of rebels, arm Kurdish and Sunni forces, [and] counter ISIS recruitment…”
In November 2015, Rubio stated that his strategy is also more aggressive than most of the other candidates as he wants to “remove military budget cuts imposed under sequestration,” and “make the U.S. armed forces mission ‘total destruction of ISIL’ including ground troops…”
According to Fox News, he also believes the United States should spearhead establishing a Sunni army comprised of Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, and other allied countries.
Ted Cruz is one of the few candidates to talk about the danger of immigration—legal and illegal—of terrorists from Mexico into the United States. In a December 2015 article, The Daily Signal quoted Cruz as saying a big part of his foreign policy and potential ISIS strategy is “securing the nation’s southern border with a wall and preventing refugees who come from ‘terror-ridden countries.’”
A September 2014 article from The Atlantic mentioned Cruz as having a strong stance toward ISIS. “Like McCain and Graham, Cruz also wants to kill first and ask questions later. He’s suggested that America ‘bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age.’”
Coincidentally, President Obama swears by and has been praised for the current American-led air campaign against ISIS. Cruz’s stance on ISIS mirrors many of the other candidates: more air strikes, more Sunni and Kurdish ground forces, and no American troops on the ground.
Who’s Strategy Wins?
There is no way of knowing whose strategy could help destroy and defeat ISIS. Most of the candidates, due to the nature of politics, repeat President Obama’s current strategy as their own. Or they talk in vague terms about empowering our allies or coalition building.
Whether you think we need more airstrikes, more troops on the ground, or a complete withdrawal from the Middle East, we hope you support a candidate that believes in a strong military. By 2017, there could be a completely new terror group in some other part of the world.
No matter the country or extremist, we need a man or woman for president who will stand next to our heroes in the military, and stand up during times of great need. The United States needs a candidate who believes in the military and one who is invested in Veterans’ success after their service. Anything less hurts our country, especially those who wish to defend it.