CHARLESTON, South Carolina -- Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called for American troops on the ground in the Middle East to defeat ISIS.
At a speech focusing on national security at the Citadel in South Carolina, the former Florida governor said, “Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air – and on the ground.”
The national security speech comes days after deadly terror attacks by ISIS in Paris killed 129 people. Bush is one of several presidential candidates to lay out his proposals to defeat the terrorist organization.
Bush would not indicate a number of troops necessary, instead leaving that decision to the recommendation of military generals.
A president Jeb Bush would be the third Bush to commit troops in the Middle East. His father, George H.W. Bush, waged the mostly popular Iraq War known as Desert Storm, and his brother George W. Bush launched another war in Iraq that was largely unpopular that led to the ouster of Saddam Hussein. He also engaged in Afghanistan, which led to the longest war in U.S. history, to fight al Qaeda.
U.S. troops will not fight alone, Bush said, insisting that the U.S. would instead lead a “global coalition” to defeat ISIS “with overwhelming force.” A military operation would be assisted by NATO and Arab allies.
“Let there be no doubt, this will not be easy,” Bush said.
Bush also used the speech to define himself as the candidate best equipped to defeat terror and lead a strong military.
“This brutal savagery is a reminder of what is at stake in this election,” he said. “If these attacks remind us of anything, it is that we are living in serious times that require serious leadership.”
He continued an attempt to contrast himself as a steady hand against a crowded Republican field that he says is full of “big personalities” but lacking in people with proven records who have made tough decisions.
“It'll become aware to people that we're electing a president of the United States, a commander-in-chief of our Armed Forces,” he said earlier this week. “It's a serious undertaking.”
Bush’s argument coalesced around a declaration that, “we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism” and a need to restore America as the “leader and indispensable power of the free world.”
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During campaign stops in South Carolina Tuesday, Bush had difficulty expressing his position on Syrian refugees as governors around the country began opposing resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states based on security concerns. Bush initially seemed to oppose the governors’ refusals before pledging his support and ultimately calling for a pause in the program to verify screening procedures.
Beyond the threat from ISIS, Bush criticized recent military cutbacks and vowed to rebuild forces while modernizing the Air Force, increasing the size of the Navy, improved missile defense and a focus on surveillance and cyber-security.
“The next president will take office after an eight-year drawdown of American military power, and careless, chronic neglect by the President and Congress.”
He also emphasized the importance of the Patriot Act’s metadata collection program as a means of connecting dots between foreign terrorists and domestic operatives.
“If ever there were a time for such a program, it is now, and yet too few in Congress were courageous enough to defend this program when it mattered most,” he said.
Bush also tied Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton to the current state of America’s defense posture, saying her foreign policy wouldn’t be any more aggressive or forward leaning than President Obama’s.
“I reject their diminished view of America’s role in the world.” He said. “In my administration, security for the United States will mean gaining and keeping the edge in every category, old and new.”