It’s been a few months since Ted Cruz first vowed to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” testing whether “sand can glow in the dark.” When veteran foreign policy experts, inside the Republican Party and out, express disappointment with what’s become of the GOP’s approach to national security, they generally cite Cruz’s quote as Exhibit A.
But as scrutiny has increased, so too has the senator’s commitment to the idea – or at least the idea as he understands it. In Saturday night’s debate, ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Cruz to explain how his carpet-bombing idea “would work against an unconventional terrorist group that is now hiding” in areas with large civilian populations. The candidate argued:
“[W]hen I say saturation carpet bombing, that is not indiscriminate. That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command and control locations. It’s targeted at infrastructure. It’s targeted at communications. It’s targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa. It’s using overwhelming air power.”
This is actually a helpful reply insofar as it highlights the key problem: Ted Cruz says he wants saturation carpet bombing, but he doesn’t know what that means.
As we discussed in December, carpet bombing, by definition, involves indiscriminate bombing of large areas, without regard for collateral damage.
In effect, Cruz is saying he supports indiscriminate bombing done in a targeted, precise way, which generated applause at the debate, but which doesn’t make a lick of sense.
By way of a follow-up, the debate moderator pressed forward.
RADDATZ: Senator Cruz, would you like to expand or loosen the rules of engagement? I was just over in a command center in Erbil and they said they thought the rules of engagement worked. Because you have so many civilians in those populated areas, they don’t want to hit civilians.CRUZ: Martha, I will tell you, I have visited with active duty military, with veterans over and over and over again in town halls all over the state of New Hampshire. What we are doing to our sons and daughters, it is immoral. We are sending them into fight with their arms tied behind their back. They cannot defend themselves. And it is wrong.
Or put another way, Cruz doesn’t care if military leaders are satisfied with the current rules of engagement, just as he doesn’t care about targeting populated areas with civilians.
All of this, of course, was applauded by the debate audience – because this is what constitutes being “tough” in Republican circles in 2016.