The Republican candidates for President spent a lot of time on Tuesday night ginning up the fear. Fear of Terrorism. Fear of being killed here in America. Fear that President Obama wasn’t doing enough to fight these things. And most of all, fear of the growing threat of Daesh/ISIS/ISIL.
They all wanted to lay out their plans on how to take care of that threat, from restoring the strength of the military that has undergone budget cuts, which according to them were caused by Obama, arming the Kurds which they claim is only partially being done through Baghdad, and then instituting a no-fly zone over the battle ground. That all seems pretty reasonable at first until you dig a little deeper.
First off, our military budget is by far the largest in the world by a wide margin even after the recent budget cuts caused by the sequester, which by the way was put in place because Congress couldn’t come up with a budget agreement. Therefore, that wasn’t the President’s fault. If you want to blame someone for the sequester, the blame falls squarely at the feet of Congress where it always does on budget issues.
And despite claims that our military is not modern, that is also not exactly true. We have the F-35, which is not functioning up to the specs it is supposed to, and a few new naval ships just unveiled. And these are just the ones we know about currently. There are always weapon systems and other projects in the works that the public knows nothing about until it is absolutely necessary. Take the SR-71 Blackbird for instance. The public knew nothing of the world’s fastest and highest-flying spy plane until it was near retirement.
Then we come to the idea that we need to arm the Kurds and Peshmerga directly, which they say Obama just isn’t doing. First off, that isn’t completely true. The CIA is actually supplying them with weapons, but the federal government can’t because of our laws. We can arm Iraq and they can send weapons to them, which they do, but that is still tricky.
Both Iraq and Turkey are worried about arming the Kurds. Iraq and the US are worried that if the Kurds are armed too much they may decide to leave the country and destabilize it further at some point. The Turks are also worried about the same sort of thing. They have a long history of violence and confrontation between the two groups, and with the Kurds having large stockpiles of arms because of the conflict with ISIS, they may decide to turn against the Turks after they defeat the Islamic State. These are the sorts of calculations that a President has to consider.
Finally, we come to the no-fly zone. Why is this really even a consideration? Daesh doesn’t have any planes or pilots. The only people who are flying in the area are people who are bombing them. I suppose Chris Christie just doesn’t like that anyone other than NATO forces are doing the bombing. After all, when asked, he said he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot down a Russian jet if it were flying there.
Thankfully, there was a sane response to this insane comment from Rand Paul. If you want to start World War III, just elect Chris Christie, because that is exactly what you will get when you shoot down Russian jets indiscriminately. They were asked to be there by Syria and Iraq, and are close allies with Iran. They are also allied with China and may feel they have the leverage to come out ahead in a contest against us. Only an idiot would provoke them or impose a no-fly zone when you have other nations who are already flying there that are not our enemies.
The Republican candidates can scream all they want that not enough is being done about the Islamic State, but they’re wrong when they say they would really be doing that much differently.