Following attacks in Paris that left at least 129 people dead, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain is calling for an international coalition — which includes at least 10,000 American troops — to fight the Islamic State on the ground in the Middle East.
“We can win, we should win, and we must win,” the Senator told KTAR recently. “We have the capability, the military, the technology — we have everything we need to win, and yet the president won’t let us win.”
McCain has been one of the most outspoken critics of what he’s repeatedly called President Obama’s “failed strategy” to contain ISIS (also called ISIL or Daesh), though in the last few days, he’s intensified his attack.
While McCain did not respond to an interview request from New Times, he told KTAR that the attacks in Paris are “the result of a failed foreign policy of a president who refuses to lead; of a president who believes that if we leave wars, then wars end; a president who believes that the United States should not lead; and a president who still refuses to really take any action to stop ISIS and defeat them.”
Hinting that had Obama acted earlier and more forcefully, the expansion and growing sophistication of ISIS could have been mitigated, he’s appalled that the president is continuing to defend his containment strategy.
McCain called Obama’s comments at a recent press conference at the G20 summit in Turkey “Orwellian and disconnected from the realities of what’s going on in the world.”
We face a simple choice with ISIS, he told NPR this morning: ”You can fight them there, or you can fight them here. That's [the] choice now.”
At the conference, Obama said critics calling for a swift military response are just full of rhetoric: “If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they want to do, present a specific plan,” The Guardian reported Obama saying. “What I am not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with . . . I’m too busy for that.”
He argued that his containment strategy was working because ISIS controls less territory in Iraq and Syria than it did last year, but McCain is having none of it.
“When [the president] says they contained ISIS, talk about out of touch!” The group, he added, has a presence in many more countries.
McCain has advocated for a robust military response to ISIS in the past, but this week, he’s become more specific in his call — he agreed to NPR’s invitation to “pop off” a counter military plan.
McCain said he’d like to see an international coalition, including Arab countries and Turkey, to fight ISIS on the ground, impose a no-fly zone in Syria, and create “safe spaces” for millions of Syrian refugees. (The U.S would play a supportive role in the coalition, he added, meaning few American soldiers would risk losing their lives.)
McCain also is adamant that Syrian President Bashar Assad has to be deposed immediately and that there is no place for Russia in this international coalition, since “they’re the ones propping up Assad.”
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In the last few weeks, Russia has conducted air strikes over Syria that it says are meant to take out ISIS. But most agree that the strikes have primarily targeted anti-Assad rebels who generally are backed by the United States.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in [Obama’s] strategy,” McCain told KTAR, “because I believe [ISIS is] a direct threat to the United States of America.”
He warns that the Paris attacks, which he calls “an act of war,” are further proof that ISIS now is waging a global battle. (ISIS also has claimed responsibility for a recent attack in Beirut, Lebanon, and for blowing up a Russian airplane flying over Egypt.)
“If we think that a terrorist organization is going to defeat us, then we ought raise our hands and surrender,” he added, because, as far as he’s concerned, it’s only a matter of time before they attack us here.