2016 Presidential Candidates Take Positions on Using US Ground Troops to Combat ISIS

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The Eiffel Tower lighted in the colors of the French flag following the ISIS terrorist attacks on Nov. 17, 2015
Source: Yann Caradec, “La Tour Eiffel Illuminée en Bleu Blanc Rouge – Fluctuat nec Mergitur – Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” www.flickr.com, Nov. 17, 2015

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and France’s retaliatory strikes against ISIS, we have compiled the 2016 presidential candidates’ responses to whether the United States should send ground troops to fight ISIS.

On Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, three teams of terrorists attacked six locations around Paris: the Stade de France during a soccer game at which President Francois Hollande was in attendance and was evacuated safely; the Bataclan concert hall at which the California band Eagles of Death Metal were performing; and four locations with restaurants, cafes, and bars. At least 129 people were killed and 352 were wounded.

Jeb Bush, when asked on Nov. 15, 2015 by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press whether the US should send troops to fight ISIS, responded:

“Absolutely. And it ought to be designed by our military without their hands tied. We ought to know exactly what it’ll take. And we can’t do it alone. I think that’s an important lesson from history. But we need to lead. But for the United States, who is going to take the leadership role? I think having a no-fly zone will be an important part of this. And there are many other things that we need to do in concert with our allies.”

Source: Meet the Press, “Meet the Press – November 15, 2015,” www.nbcnews.com, Nov. 15, 2015

Ben Carson, when asked about sending ground troops on Aug. 16, 2015, responded:

“Ground troops may well be necessary… I don’t pretend to know the number [of ground troops] without a lot of information. And that’s one of the reasons that we have generals and people who really are able to figure out what needs to be done.”

Source: ABC News, “‘This Week’ Transcript: Donald Trump,” abcnews.go.com, Aug. 16, 2015

Chris Christie, on Oct. 20, 2015, expressed his opinion about sending ground troops:

“I think we have to keep American troops as an option on the table, but to me it is a later option, not a first option, and the president should have been doing all these other things first.”

Source: Joel Aschbrenner, “Christie: If Sending Ground Troops, Go ‘Whole Hog,'” desmoinesregister.com, Oct. 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton, answered interviewer Maria Elena Salinas about ISIS on Aug. 12, 2015:

“You know, ISIS is a phenomenon and ISIS came out of the terrible turmoil in Syria. I personally had advocated that we do more to help the rebels against [Syrian President] Assad because I worried that terrorists would take and occupy territory, and that has come to pass, not only with ISIS but other Al-Qaeda affiliates and terrorist networks. So I think the proximate cause is the chaos inside of Syria…

I view it [ISIS] as a real threat, I view it as something we’ve got to stand up to. But I will not put American troops on the ground to fight ISIS.”

Source: Univision, “Transcript Maria Elena Salinas Interview with Hillary Clinton,” Univision.com, Aug. 12, 2015

Ted Cruz commented on sending US troops to fight ISIS on Nov. 5, 2015:

“There are some politicians who like to support boots on the ground in every conflict across the globe in an effort to lean forward and show how tough they are. I don’t think this is a game of Risk. I don’t think it should be politicians moving armies about. I think it should be driven by the national security imperatives and the military needs on the ground.”

Source: Ian Hanchett, “Cruz: Ramp up Airstrikes, Arm Kurds against ISIS, US Could ‘Focus’ Russia on ISIS, Doesn’t Pledge Boots on the Ground,” breitbart.com, Nov. 5, 2015

Carly Fiorina expressed her thoughts as follows:

“Look, all of us who know anything about it have known that you cannot have a successful bombing campaign unless you have special operations troops on the ground helping to direct that campaign. President Obama hasn’t been willing to do that for political purposes.

It’s also true that he has no strategy in Syria. He has no strategy for ISIS. And it’s also true that when the United States of America fails to act, as he has failed to act, are options are diminished.”

Source: The Week, ABC News, Nov. 1, 2015

Lindsey Graham, in the CNN Reagan Library debate on Sep. 16, 2015, said he would send ground troops to fight ISIS:

“Now we’re in a spot where, if we don’t destroy ISIL soon, they are coming here. There are 3,500 American boots on the ground. You would never know it, hearing your president, but we need about 10,000 to turn the tide of battle in Iraq. Then there is nobody left, Dana, to train inside of Syria…

[W]e’re going in on the ground and we’re going to pull the caliphate up by its roots and we’re going to kill every one of these bastards we can find because, if we don’t, they are coming here.”

Source: CNN, “CNN Reagan Library Debate: Early Debate Full Transcript,” cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com, Sep. 16, 2015

Mike Huckabee expressed his opinion on sending ground troops:

“So when we have a threat, whether it is ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranians, whatever it is, we make it very clear that we plan to push back and destroy that threat to us. And we won’t take 10 years doing it, we hopefully won’t even take 10 months, it will be like a 10 day exercise, because the fierceness of our forces would mean that we can absolutely guarantee the outcome of this film. That’s how America needs to operate in the world of foreign affairs, and foreign policy… We have to leave that [sending ground troops] as an option. We can’t leave anything off the table.”

Source: Andrew Kacynski and Megan Apper, “Huckabee: U.S. Military Should Be Able to Defeat ISIS, Iran, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah in 10 Days,” www.buzzfeed.com, July 13, 2015

John Kasich stated he would send American troops to fight ISIS on Feb. 20, 2015:

“Americans will go for leadership that makes sense. Our job, you know, as public officials, is not to put our finger in the air. Our job is to listen and then lead… I’m just suggesting to you that at some point in dealing with ISIS, you mark my words, whether John Kasich, you ever hear from him again, at some point it will require boots on the ground from the world to be able to deal with this problem. And I would rather deal with it sooner than later, but you don’t just go running over there. You’ve got to have a battle plan.”

Source: Alexandra Jaffe, “Kasich: Boots on the Ground Necessary to Defeat ISIS,” www.cnn.com, Feb. 20, 2015

Martin O’Malley expressed his opinion about boots on the ground to fight ISIS on June 26, 2015:

“No threat probably better illustrates the unintended consequences of a mindless rush to war and a lack of understanding than the emergence of ISIS… We must be mindful that American boots on the ground can be counterproductive to our desired outcome. We will not be successful in degrading ISIS if the number of militants taken off the battlefield is exceeded by number of new recruits replacing them.”

Source: Ken Thomas, “O’Malley: Islamic State a Result of Mindless Rush to War,” bigstory.ap.com, June 26, 2015

Rand Paul said he would not send US troops to fight ISIS:

“I think that there do need to be boots on the ground, I just think the boots on the ground need to be the people that live there. [They] need to stand up and fight.

I can’t see it if the Iraqis are not willing to fight for their country, sending American GIs to fight in their place.”

Source: Fox News Insider, “Sen. Rand Paul on Fighting ISIS: Our Allies Need to Be the Boots on the Ground,” insider.foxnews.com, Oct. 19 2014

Marco Rubio expressed his opinion about sending troops to fight ISIS:

“I think the strategy [to defeat ISIS] has to involve more coordination with the Kurds and also with Sunnis, because you’re not going to defeat ISIS, a radical Sunni movement, without a robust anti-ISIS Sunni coalition.

So, I do think [Obama sending 50 special operations troops into Syria] it’s important tactical step forward. It needs to be backed up with increased airstrikes and so forth.”

Source: Susan Jones, “Rubio Says US May Need to Send More Troops to Syria,” cnsnews.com, Nov. 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders, in the Oct. 14, 2015 Democratic presidential debate, said:

“Well, let’s understand that when we talk about Syria, you’re talking about a quagmire in a quagmire. You’re talking about a group of people trying to overthrow Assad, other groups of people fighting ISIS. You’re talking about people who are fighting ISIS using their guns to overthrow Assad, and vice versa. I’m the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and in that capacity I learned a very powerful lesson about the cost of war, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. We should be putting together a coalition of Arab countries who should be leading the effort. We should be supportive, but I do not support American ground troops in Syria.”

Source: New York Times, “Full Transcript: Democratic Presidential Debate,” nytimes.com, Oct. 14, 2015

Donald Trump, in an Aug. 19, 2015 interview, said:

“DONALD TRUMP: Well, I want to take away their wealth. And, as you know, for years I’ve been saying, ‘Don’t go into Iraq.’ They went into Iraq. They destabilized the Middle East. It was a big mistake. Okay, now we’re there. And you have ISIS. And I said this was going to happen. I said, ‘Iran will take over Iraq,’ which is happening as sure as you’re sitting there. And ISIS is taking over a lot of the oil and certain areas of Iraq. And I said you take away their wealth, that you go and knock the hell out of the oil, take back the oil. We take over the oil, which we should have done in the first place…

CHUCK TODD: What you’re talking is–ground troops.

DONALD TRUMP: That’s okay.”

Source: Meet the Press, “Meet the Press Transcript – August 16, 2015,” www.nbcnews.com, Aug. 19, 2015


David Lawler and Isabelle Fraser, “Paris Attacks: Mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud ‘Killed’ in Police Raid on Saint-Denis Apartment – Live,” www.telegraph.co.uk, Nov. 18, 2015