With the Iowa Caucus just four days away, seven Republican candidates took their final message to the main stage at the Fox News/Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) GOP Presidential Primary Debate in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday.
This is the final debate before voters cast their ballots for the first-in-the-nation caucus.
According to Google, ISIS was the most searched foreign policy topic over the last year and one of the top issues contenders tackled during the debate.
First up, Senator Ted Cruz responding to critics that he talks “tough about fighting terrorism” with making statements such as “carpet bombing” ISIS into oblivion. Cruz voted against the Defense Authorization Act three years in a row in opposition of granting President Obama the authorization to enforce his red line in Syria. Cruz however didn’t back down from his aggressive rhetoric.
“I will apologize to nobody for the vigorousness with which I will fight terrorism, go after ISIS, hunt them down wherever they are, and utterly and completely destroy ISIS,” said Ted Cruz. “You claim it is tough talk to discuss carpet bombing. It is not tough talk. It is a different, fundamental military strategy than what we've seen from Barack Obama.”
Cruz went on to explain that “saturation bombing” was a tactic used in the first Persian Gulf War that “utterly destroyed the enemy.”
Taking Cruz’s strategy a step further, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said ISIS must be “defeated militarily, and that will take overwhelming U.S. force.”
Under President Obama’s watch says Rubio, the military has been “diminished”, a tactic that is not helpful in the war on terror.
“When I'm president, we are rebuilding the U.S. military because the world is a safer and a better place when America is the strongest military in the world,” said Rubio.
Florida Governor, Jeb Bush who has criticized both Rubio and Cruz for their congressional voting records not authorizing military force, says the lessons from history have helped developed his terror plan.
“The caliphate of ISIS has to be destroyed, which means we need to arm directly to Kurds, imbed our troops with the Iraqi military, re-engage with the Sunni tribal leaders,” said Jeb Bush adding. “Have a no fly zone in Syria and create safe zones to deal with the refugees. But, more importantly, to train a Sunni-led force in Syria to take out ISIS with our support.”
Senator Rand Paul, who refused to participate in the last GOP debate in South Carolina, suggested a much different approach to combat ISIS. He says while the issue in Syria is “a very important one” bombing ISIS and Assad simultaneously is a “really bad idea.”
“I've said for several years that arming the allies of ISIS will make the situation worse, that what we really need to do is defeat ISIS. But if you defeat Assad, what you will wind up with is a larger and more powerful ISIS that occupies that space,” said Rand Paul. “You might -- you may well see an ISIS that takes over all of Syria.”
Former Ohio Governor John Kasich says success in the war on terror must include ground forces but he says that doesn’t mean the United States should be “the policemen of the world.”
“We want to destroy ISIS, it has to be in the air and on the ground. It has to be with our friends in the Arab world and our friends in Europe, the coalition that we had when we went to the first Gulf War,” said Kasich. “And then when we win that, and we will win that against ISIS as it settles down, and we should leave.”
The topic of ISIS also turned to domestic terror in light of the San Bernardino terror attacks nearly a month ago. Marco Rubio who has advocated closing down mosques and other places where radicalization is occurring, stood by his stance.
“Radical Muslims and radical Islam is not just hate talk. It's hate action. They blow people up. Look what they did in San Bernardino,” said Rubio adding. “We must keep America safe from this threat. And yes, when I am president of the United States, if there is some place in this country where radical jihadists are planning to attack the United States, we will go after them wherever they are, and if we capture them alive, they are going to Guantanamo.”