Guests on Sunday’s political talk shows focused largely on President Barack Obama’s decision last week to launch airstrikes in Iraq in an effort to weaken the Islamic State terror group that has made major gains across the region in recent weeks. Republicans slammed the President’s response to the terror threat as too weak; meanwhile, most Democrats maintained tacit support for Obama’s limited response.
On Saturday, Obama announced that the U.S. was providing air support to the Iraqi Defense Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the Islamic State threat. While the President left the door open for a sustained bombing campaign by declining to give a timetable for the strikes, he stressed that the current efforts don’t include U.S. boots on the ground.
Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz.) said that the Obama Administration’s response should focus more on the Islamic State’s threat to the U.S.
“This is an Iraqi problem, but it’s a United States problem, and it is a threat to our national security,” he said.
During his appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain said that he is not alone in viewing the Islamic State as a major threat to U.S. security.
“I say that with the full backing, or the quotes, from our Director of National Intelligence, our Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the FBI, and even the Attorney General of the United States. This is turning into, as we had predicted for a long time, a regional conflict which does pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, and launching three strikes around a place where a horrible humanitarian crisis is taking place, meanwhile ISIS continues to make gains everywhere,” he said.
McCain’s opinions were echoed by other Republicans on the Sunday talk shows.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Peter King, a New York Republican, suggested that failing to properly eliminate the Islamic State threat could lead to another 9/11 scenario.
“Every day that goes by ISIS builds up this caliphate and it becomes a direct threat to the United States of America. They are more powerful now than al Qaida was on 9/11,” he said.
King also said it is a mistake for Obama to place limits on a U.S. response to the situation in Iraq, adding that boots on the ground isn’t the only option available beyond airstrikes.
“Let’s not set up the false argument that it has to be troops on the ground. We have the entire weight of the American military, plus we can work with the Kurds,” he said. “We can provide weaponry to the Kurds, who have been good fighters. No one has been more loyal to us then the Kurds.”
Democrats, on the other hand, largely expressed support for the Administration’s current response to the Islamic State problem.
On “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that the President’s “surgical” strikes on the Islamic State fit into Obama’s long-term plan to restore stability to the region.
“We cannot send the troops, we must not send the troops,” he said. “We need to be sure that what we do has surgical precision to it and a clear goal of success.”
Durbin also insisted that a humanitarian and limited military response to the threat is all that the U.S. should offer because “only Iraq can save Iraq.”
“Escalating it is not in the cards. Neither American people nor Congress are in the business of wanting to escalate this conflict beyond where it is today,” he said.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham summed up the no-win situation that the U.S. faces in Iraq and avoided criticizing Obama’s current strategy.
“I don’t think you can judge how [President Obama] did right now,” she said. “We’re almost in an impossible situation, right? The American people really have no appetite for America to reengage…What are we going to do? What are we going to accomplish?”
“So I think he’s reacting to that,” Ingraham continued. “But he’s also…reluctantly seeing the perils of inaction. If we do nothing, then what? Let’s say Iraq does fall — which I think is a possibility, Iraq may fall — if indeed there are no boots on the ground, not gonna happen, can’t happen, then that’s very empowering to ISIL, right? If they know American troops are not going to be on the ground at all, and I’m not saying I want them there, then they know they get an artillery position hit as they did yesterday, then they flood back in.”