Bush plants a seed in Syria
Whether it was a sincere policy proposal, or a bold attempt to separate himself from the pack, or a mixture of both, Jeb Bush has emerged as the one to finally identify the problem our nation faces in fighting ISIS.
Troops. Or rather, the lack of them.
Bush last week became the first presidential candidate to publicly state that America must commit ground forces to the conflict with the world’s most notorious terrorist group.
After the attacks in Paris, the former Florida governor, who has struggled to gain traction against Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, argued before a crowd at The Citadel in South Carolina that the U.S. ought to lead a broad, “global” coalition to zap ISIS. He declined to define how many troops, choosing instead to cast out vague terms like “overwhelming force,” and the “need” to both “intensify our efforts” and “increase our presence” on the ground in Syria.
But Bush added that he envisioned the bulk of these troops coming from “local forces” drawn from America’s partners, including the Arab states, in the battle against ISIS.
Bush’s military prescription for the cancer consuming the Middle East, which has now spread into Europe, not only differentiated himself from his GOP rivals, but also the current occupant of the White House, as well as the current Democratic front-runner.
Last week President Barack Obama also addressed this issue. Obama, who recently dispatched 50 special operations troops to Syria, and who has gradually raised the number deployed in Iraq to 3,500, told reporters that introducing “large numbers” of ground troops into the conflict would be a “mistake.” “When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed, they’re away from their families. Our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so, given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t, you know, shoot first and aim later,” Obama told reporters in Turkey.
Bush’s remarks immediately landed him in the context of his father and brother, both of whom launched large-scale U.S. war efforts in the Middle East. That legacy could very well saddle him with being portrayed as a warmonger. Doubts about his acumen may arise as well. His call for a no-fly zone over Syria, for instance, is ill-advised because of the possibility it may pit American fighters against Russian pilots bombing ISIS at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Still, Bush has finally called attention to the issue no one wants to talk about. The U.S. and its partners have been bombing ISIS positions for 15 months, with dubious claims, such as Obama wants to make, of success. Paris demonstrated that. ISIS clearly is far from surrendering. Yet Obama does recognize that, despite ISIS’s brutality and rhetoric, the American people don’t seem to have appetite for more war in the Middle East - that is, unless it’s fought from 30,000 feet.
Whether you agree with him or not, Bush has started a real debate about our policy in Syria and Iraq, one our nation must have. We must first question why so many of our supposed allies in the Middle East, who seem to have the most to lose from ISIS’s growth, are not ready to wipe out the threat in their own neighborhood. Then, if we determine they won’t fight for themselves, we must resolve whether we consider ISIS enough of a threat to expend more American lives and treasure in that snake pit.
We know where Bush stands, and presumably Sen. Rand Paul, who has said he would refuse to commit troops into Syria. What about everyone else?
Reprinted from the Panama City News Herald
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