A Few Republicans Really, Really Want Ground Troops in Iraq
In a matter of months, the Islamic State (IS) has cemented itself as a feared terrorist organization. And with the group's gruesome beheadings and headline-grabbing expansion into Iraq and Syria, some of America's politicians are calling for intervention far beyond airstrikes.
Last week, President Obama announced that while the U.S. will take a firm stance on ISIS, it will not take on a unilateral effort. But as Secretary of State John Kerry travels around the world drumming up support for a coalition against IS, it remains unclear how active a leadership role the U.S. should take, and whether limiting military engagement to airstrikes is effective.
The more hawkish groups of the American government have expressed frustration with this slow approach: In particular, many Republicans — retired or still in office — have indicated that ground troops might be the best option.
Here are some choice quotes:
"It is our fight. It is not just their fight. They are planning to come here ... To destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders. The president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed at home." — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
"I'm not suggesting we need to get into another ground war in the Middle East. I'm just saying we cannot do this without having some forces on the ground that can help our air campaign. You have to have that ... Everybody tells me, you got to have some people on the ground. You can't do this with just air power." — James Baker, secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush
"Air power won't be sufficient. When you just rely on air power, people don't doubt your strength, they doubt your intention." — Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden
"An F-16 is not a strategy. And airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we're trying to accomplish. The president's made clear that he doesn't want boots on the ground, well somebody's boots have to be on the ground." — Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio)
"Our allies would feel much more secure and committed ... if they knew that Congress was behind this." — Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
So where does the country stand? The unfolding conflict in Iraq and Syria has brought back the American public's conflicting feelings regarding national security and foreign wars. Despite the fact that Obama was voted into office on the promise of bringing overseas troops home, public sentiment seems to have changed a lot since then.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, around two-thirds of the country believe that confronting IS is in the national interest. More tellingly, 40% of respondents said that military engagement should be limited to airstrikes, while a roughly same amount — 34% — said they support both airstrikes and ground forces.
Of course, many people still remember very well what happened the last time the U.S. got involved in a ground invasion in Iraq, and would be loath to see history repeat itself. Still, IS is inspiring fear, and immediate concerns over national security seem to have trumped many people's distaste for foreign entanglements.