The recent terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and hundreds more injured have thrust the issue of combating ISIS into the center of the 2016 presidential election. Here’s where the candidates stand:
Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor has called for a U.S.-led global coalition, including U.S. ground forces, to take out the Islamic State, or ISIS. “The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force,” Bush said Wednesday at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. “Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air – and on the ground.”
Ben Carson. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, the retired neurosurgeon – who’s facing criticism over blunders on foreign policy – called for the U.S. to “dramatically increase its efforts to appeal directly to the moderate Kurds, Syrians and Iraqis.” To do that, Carson said, “will require a multi-pronged communications strategy that leverages our strengths in media production and messaging, combined with cutting off traditional access routes to social media for radical Islamist groups.” Carson also recommended either destroying or taking control of the oil fields along Syria’s eastern border to dismantle the Islamic State’s infrastructure, as well as enhanced security along U.S. borders. “While we should not open U.S. borders to refugees at this time, we should encourage the establishment of sanctuary zones in the contested areas of Iraq and Syria,” Carson wrote. “This would not involve a significant on-the-ground presence of Western armies. But we would provide humanitarian aid in the form of shelter, food, water and medical care to fleeing refugees.”
Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor spoke of an urgent need to destroy ISIS following the Paris attacks, calling on the U.S. to close its borders and find renewed national resolve. “We have seen evil visited upon innocent people once again,” Christie said Saturday at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Florida, a day after the attacks. “We stand with (the people of France) and pray for them. Our outrage must turn into action and resolve. ISIS warned us they would commit unspeakable carnage and now they have.”
Hillary Clinton. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday in New York City, the Democratic front-runner outlined three key pillars of her national security plan: defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, disrupting and dismantling the growing terrorist network and strengthening American defenses against external and homegrown threats. Clinton stood with President Obama on not sending hundreds of thousands of ground troops to the region, saying that would “just not [be] the smart move to make here.” But she broke with the administration in stating that her ultimate goal was not to “contain” ISIS, but to “defeat and destroy” the terrorist organization.
Ted Cruz. Although the Texas senator has turned his attention mostly toward barring Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S. since the terrorist attacks on Paris last week, he has also pledged to “defeat radical Islamic terrorism” as president. Militarily, Cruz has said he would arm the Kurds and use “overwhelming” air power. “There’s no reason to be putting our sons and daughters in harm’s way without a military plan to keep them safe and to win,” Cruz said Saturday on “Fox and Friends.” “If they have a commander-in-chief who has no strategy – he will not even utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ – he will not defeat them.”
Carly Fiorina. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO hasn’t offered any specifics for defeating ISIS, but she has been clear about one thing: She would do everything differently from Obama. “There are a whole host of things that we should have done that we have not done, and unfortunately I think Obama has managed to polarize the debate about what to do with ISIS with a false choice. The false choice that Obama presents to the American people is: If you don’t agree with what I am doing, then the only option is tens of thousands of boots on the ground. It’s simply false,” Fiorina said Thursday on Fox Business Network. She later criticized the Obama administration for not supplying Middle East allies with support sooner. “We’ve had a fairly effective bombing campaign over the last couple of days. Why haven’t we been doing that for a year and a half?” Fiorina said. “Because we’ve had politically expedient rules of engagement, that’s why.”Mike Huckabee. Immediately after the Paris attacks, the former Arkansas governor told Breitbart News he would build a coalition – including NATO, Russia and Middle Eastern countries – to “bomb the absolute stink” out of ISIS. “Any nation that doesn’t participate [in the coalition,]” said Huckabee, “we sanction and isolate them.” Huckabee added that as president, he would make sure ISIS had no access to social media. He also said he would close U.S. borders “to people who are connected to any country where there’s a strong presence of ISIS or al-Qaeda” – a position he later doubled down on in an op-ed for TIME.
John Kasich. The Ohio governor has called for the U.S. to join a coalition with European and Middle Eastern allies that puts troops on the ground to defeat ISIS. “Bombings are not enough,” Kasich said in an op-ed for TIME. “We must root them out and destroy them.” Additionally, Kasich implored the U.S. to arm Kurdish forces and “enforce no-fly zones in Syria where refugees can find shelter.”
Martin O’Malley. In an op-ed for the Daily News, the former Maryland governor called for “[a]ir strikes in concert with our allies and regional partners and more effective human intelligence.” As for ground troops, O’Malley argued that strategically placed special forces would be “more effective in the long run than large American combat battalions.” He added that there must be greater attention paid to the terrorists’ encryption capabilities, “which has enabled them to ‘go dark’ well before they strike.”
Rand Paul. As the least hawkish Republican candidate in the field, the Kentucky senator is advocating the U.S. focus on cutting off the Islamic State’s funding, rather than a military response. “Airstrikes have impacted ISIS’s oil trade,” Paul wrote in an op-ed for TIME, “but there’s one form of funding we can put an immediate stop to: donations from citizens, purported nonprofit groups, and governments or private sources in Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.” To do that, Paul said the U.S. must send a clear message to those governments: “take accountability for your role in murdering our citizens or we will freeze your assets. Locate the citizens who are financing terrorism and lock them up or we won’t sell you a single missile or fighter jet. The U.S. does not do business with terror financiers, period.”
Marco Rubio. The Florida senator’s four-point plan to defeat ISIS is one of the most hawkish in the presidential field, including a call for troops on the ground and a no-fly zone. “I would build a multinational coalition of countries willing to send troops into Iraq and Syria to aid local forces on the ground,” Rubio wrote in an op-ed for Politico Thursday. “When I am president, I will tell my commanders that the mission is the total destruction of ISIL and will send them the forces necessary to succeed.” Rubio also called for cutting off the flow of Syrian refugees into the U.S. and defeating President Bashar al-Assad. “I would oppose Russia and Iran in their fight to prolong Assad’s brutal regime,” Rubio said.
Bernie Sanders. In a speech dedicated to democratic socialism Thursday, the Vermont senator called for a “new NATO” that would include Russia to combat radical Islamic terrorism. “A new and strong coalition of Western powers, Muslim nations, and countries like Russia must come together in a strongly coordinated way to combat ISIS,” Sanders said, “to seal the border that fighters are currently flowing across, to share counter-terrorism intelligence, to turn off the spigot of terrorist financing, and to end support for exporting radical ideologies.” He also criticized the Gulf States – singling out Qatar – for not committing enough resources to fight ISIS. “As we develop a strongly coordinated effort,” Sanders said, “we need a commitment from these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of cooperation that we desperately need.”
Rick Santorum. Speaking Saturday at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Florida, the former Pennsylvania senator stressed the need to increase the U.S. bombing campaign in the Middle East and take back land from ISIS. “We need to be aggressive in taking back that land,” Santorum said. “Why? Because the whole legitimacy of a caliphate is based on holding land. If they do not hold land, they lose legitimacy.” Santorum did not say how many U.S. troops he’d be willing to send as commander-in-chief. “I don’t have access to all of the briefings that a president would have,” he explained. “All I can do is talk to people who are in positions prior to [my administration.]”
Donald Trump. “Bomb the s*** out of them,” the ever-brash real estate mogul declared last Thursday during a wild, 96-minute speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The attacks in Paris happened a day later, and since then Trump has largely stuck to the same script, albeit adding a few more flourishes to his ISIS strategy. During a campaign stop Thursday in Newton, Iowa, Trump told NBC News he would “certainly implement” a national database to register all Muslims living in the U.S. He also said earlier this week he would consider shutting down mosques.