The fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) has been the hot-button issue since the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. This has allowed national security—one traditionally strong area for Republicans and now this voting bloc’s main concern—to play a central role in the presidential primary, as observed in the debate a few days ago.
The presidential hopefuls seized the occasion to try to prove themselves the strongest and most determined to fight ISIS in Syria. The bellicose tone toward ISIS—and toward President Barack Obama, for supposed weakness—was the common denominator. Ironically, most of the proposals made are quite similar to the actions already taken by the president in the region.
Proposals were heard to bomb ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq, including oil wells; to train and arm moderate rebels; to work to have Arab nations contribute troops or arms; and to engage U.S. special forces, among others.
All of this is part of the policy being implemented by Obama. The difference is that the primary candidates are announcing it sternly, with a belligerent tone, as if it were a new idea to counter Obama’s “weakness.”
It is worth noting that in the debate, Governor Chris Christie said he was ready to shoot down Russian aircraft if they fail to respect to the no-fly zone, Senator Lindsay Graham wants to send U.S. troops, Senator Ted Cruz had to be corrected when the type of bombing he advocated was incorrect, and Senator Marco Rubio, like Christie, mistakenly believes that the appearance of ISIS is directly linked to the Assad government in Syria and to Iran.
The difficulty in finding new options different from Obama’s is evidence of the complexity of the situation in the Middle East, where numerous interests are at play. This is also a problem in the Democratic camp with the favorite Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, the level of belligerence is concerning because it stirs unrest among Republican voters with a misleading narrative of solutions that seem simple and are not being implemented because of Obama, when the truth is entirely the opposite. Rather than taking the ISIS threat seriously, this seems to be another tool of political demagoguery.