Hillary Clinton joins critics of Obama's response to ISIS in Iraq

Republicans – and Hillary Clinton – slammed President Obama's policies in Syria and Iraq on Sunday. A look at the criticisms and proposed alternatives.

(AP Photo, File)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, as he listens to other Senators speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a July 24 news conference on the violence in the Mideast. Graham says the Islamic State is a threat to the US.

President Obama's latest moves in Iraq – a combination of air strikes and air drops of humanitarian aid – were roundly criticized by Republicans Sunday.

And, Hillary Clinton sounded remarkably like a Republican this week, distancing herself from the current administration.

Rep. Peter King (R) of New York argued for deeper US military engagement in Iraq, saying that ISIS was more powerful than Al Qaeda and "a direct threat" to US security.

“We can’t wait for Maliki or the Iraqi parliament to fight ISIS. Every day that goes by ISIS builds up this caliphate, King said on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "They are more powerful now than Al Qaeda was on 9/11. [Sen.] Dick Durbin [(D) of Illinois] says we’re not going to do this, not going to do that. I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States. I lost hundreds of constituents on 9/11. I never want to do that again.”

King continued: "So, for the president to say we’re doing airstrikes, not doing anything else, we’re not going to use American combat troops, we’re not going to do this, not going to do that. What kind of leadership is that?"

Kings solution for the situation in Iraq?

We start off with massive air attacks. I think doing it from aircraft carriers is limiting them. We should use bases in the area so we could have much more sustained air attacks.

We should be aggressively arming the Kurds. The president says that once there's a unity government in Iraq we will then fight alongside and work with the Iraqi Army. Start doing that now. Why wait? Why wait months and months before the Iraqi government is back in place? Every day that goes by, ISIS builds up in strength.

As if reading from the same script, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, told "Fox News Sunday," that the ISIS is well-funded, getting stronger and a "direct threat to our homeland." Graham

"The director of national security, the FBI director, the director of homeland security has said that the ISIS presence in Syria where hundreds of Americans and thousands of European fighters have gone, represents a direct threat to the United States, and now, their enclave in Iraq.

Senator Graham, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recommends:

"To change that threat, we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense. There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power."

Mr. Graham also observed that Obama should have gotten "engaged in Syria three years ago," as he was advised by his national security team.

That comment about Syria sounds very similar to one made by Hillary Clinton, Obama's former Secretary of State and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad—there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle—the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Mrs. Clinton told The Atlantic in an interview published Sunday.

Again, sounding like Republican critics, Clinton said that Obama's foreign policy has been overly cautious. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle," she noted.

She also expressed concern about the potential threat of the Islamic State.

"One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Ben Cardin (D) of Maryland also expressed concern about the threat posed by ISIS, but supported Obama's plan of limited US military engagement with ISIS in Iraq. He said the US should not get drawn into an Iraqi civil war.

 "I don't think we can take out ISIS from a military point of view from the U.S. of our air strikes. That's not going to solve the problem," said Senator Cardin, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

"The fundamental problem is whether the Iraqis believe that they have a representative government so that Sunnis feel comfortable with the government in Baghdad. I think that's going to be the key to cutting off the type of permanent support that ISIS could otherwise have," he said.

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