Below are reactions from Alaska’s congressional delegation and federal candidates to President Obama’s speech on his plan to fight the Islamic State jihadist group called ISIS, or ISIL. Obama said on Wednesday night that he was prepared to order expanded airstrikes in Syria, and send 475 more U.S. military troops to Iraq. He will also urge Congress to approve funds for training moderate rebel forces in Syria, something that Sen. Mark Begich doesn’t support. Obama did not give a fixed date for when the operation might end, and according to news reports, his top aides have suggested it might last beyond his time in office.
The statements are from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich, Rep. Don Young. U.S. Democratic House candidate Forrest Dunbar and GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski:
Like all Americans, I am extremely concerned with the rapid growth of the Islamic State and the threat this barbaric group poses to Americans abroad, at home, and our allies around the world.
President Obama recently inadvertently admitted what many Alaskans already knew: that he did not have a strategy to protect Americans against the spread of violent Islamic extremism like that posed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Tonight, he attempted to convince us otherwise by introducing a broad strategy and a few near-term actions. Instead, I believe we still need a comprehensive plan for the region and our role including a well-defined mission and clear objectives.
Action without a defined plan is not effective or sustainable foreign policy – and it makes attracting a coalition of allies more difficult.
Make no mistake, this is a highly complex situation and there are no easy answers to combat not only the Islamic State, but the plague of violent Islamic extremism across the globe. But President Obama owes Americans more than he offered us tonight: we need to know what constitutes ‘victory’ and what benchmarks we will use to measure accomplishments as the activities are conducted. Before we can attract support from our allies in the international community, we must define terms and goals more concretely.
President Obama also needs to acknowledge he must sit down with Congress and not simply suggest his plan represents the final say on the matter. He did not spell out precisely what he is seeking from Congress in tonight’s address. Further, we need a plan to involve the key stakeholders in the Gulf region and our allies around the world to ensure a global effort against this face of evil. The neighboring countries and others have just as much at stake in this fight as any nation or culture in the world, and they need to be a core part of the solution and the endgame to create a world environment truly hostile to this movement.
I watched the speech and heard his four objectives and found myself thinking to some ‘haven’t we already been doing this?’ and to others ‘how will this work?’ America and the international community needs more clarity than tonight’s remarks provided.
We owe such careful consideration to our brave men and women in uniform before putting them into harm’s way. It’s time to step up our leadership and work together to determine the best strategy for our nation to combat this imminent threat.
Sen. Mark Begich:
I oppose the President’s plan to arm Syrian rebels at this time. I am gravely concerned by reports of ISIS seizing and utilizing U.S. weapons intended for those fighting against the Syrian regime, and we must have greater assurance that we aren’t arming extremists who will eventually use the weapons against us.
The U.S. can’t continue to foot the bill of Middle East conflicts and the nations in the region need to step up in a meaningful way. After over a decade of costly war, many Alaskans are rightfully wary of putting combat troops on the ground.
On the eve of September 11, one of the darkest days in American history, it’s clear we need to take decisive action to prevent radical extremism from growing the Middle East. The ISIS terrorists are destabilizing the region, spreading fear and destruction, and committing despicable acts of terror including the murders of two American journalists.
To keep America safe, we must act through air strikes and by forming an international coalition, including Arab nations, to defeat ISIS. But we cannot rush into another decade-long ground war that causes death and injury to our military and leaves us with huge debts. With more veterans per capita than any other state and many whom have already served multiple deployments, I do not believe we should be asking our troops to put their lives at risk yet again when we don’t have all the necessary answers.
In addition to combatting ISIS in the Middle East, we need to step up our efforts to secure our homeland and ensure ISIS does not infiltrate our border. No one who has taken up arms against our country – even if they are American citizens – should be allowed freely into the United States.
Rep. Don Young:
The reality of this situation cannot be understated. ISIL is a grave regional threat and rapidly emerging as a global security risk. In order to counter this radical extremist group and others like them, I continue to believe in the use of targeted airstrikes by the United States. Not only have these methods proven effective in helping those on the ground defend themselves, they have also begun to curb advancements of our global enemies. I also believe that now is the time for nearby regional powers – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt – to step up to the plate, commit resources, and begin fighting back against a threat that is quite literally in their backyard.
As Americans, we cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening. The actions of the terror group ISIL – rape, beheadings, mass executions, and crucifixions – and its sadistic attempts to propagandize these actions demonstrates a complete disregard of basic human rights and a fundamental detachment from what it means to be a human-being. Short of putting American boots on the ground, the United States should continue to use its superior firepower to confront and defeat this group of extremists.
My colleagues and I will continue to discuss the very serious matters surrounding this terror organization. Through on-going hearings and briefings by House national security committees, I am confident that we can find the appropriate steps to defeat our enemies.
Forrest Dunbar, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House:
ISIL is a brutal, terrorist organization, whose members and leadership must be hunted down and killed. I have worked with refugees from Iraq and have traveled in the region; I know there is great potential for change and development there. Yet every new story on ISIL reminds me how lucky we are to live in a nation that values individual liberty and personal rights, and that is protected by the world’s greatest military.
While no options should be taken off of the table, I do not believe we need to recommit a large force of American ground troops at this time. Rather, as the President indicated in his remarks and most Congresspeople agree, the most effective way for us to defeat ISIL will be a combination of aggressive airstrikes and ground operations conducted by Kurdish and other allied forces. Those airstrikes will occur in both Iraq and Syria.
Going forward, it is crucial that the President work closely with Congress and get the legal and financial authorization he requires. At the same time, I call on Congresspeople to provide that needed legislation, and leave petty politics aside. The Congress that foolishly shut down the government around this time last year is exactly the kind of irresponsible body that abdicates its duty and feeds into further executive action. Congressional inaction breeds Presidential overreach, and both are harmful to our democracy.
In the coming days, I will be looking to the Administration to provide greater specificity on what exactly they believe the roll of the American military should be in this conflict, and who it is that they plan to work with in the Middle East. If we have not destroyed ISIL by January, 2015, I plan to work on these issues as the Representative from Alaska in the U.S. House.
GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan:
In recent weeks Members of Congress from both parties have leveled harsh, yet fair judgment against President Obama for his clear lack of planning when it comes to stopping ISIS in the Middle East. The president’s remarks this evening represent a much needed departure from his misguided statement just months ago that this emerging threat to our national security was akin to a ‘jayvee team’ or the even more recent statement that the United States lacked a strategy to deal with ISIS. On this, the eve of the thirteen anniversary of the September 11th attacks, it is more critical than ever that the President continue to work with Congress, and communicate to the American people, a strategic plan to reverse and rout the spread of Islamic extremism in order to protect Americans and our allies in the region.
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