- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Like their party leaders in Washington, most GOP presidential hopefuls say they support President Obama’s decision to conduct airstrikes in Iraq, but say the White House still needs a broader strategy to halt the march of Islamist insurgents.

Some of the potential 2016 candidates said Mr. Obama was wrong to remove all combat troops earlier in his administration, while Sen. Ted Cruz said the president should come to Congress for approval if he wants to continue strikes on insurgents from the Islamic State, also known by such earlier acronyms as ISIL or ISIS.

Mr. Cruz, speaking in Iowa, called the insurgents the “latest manifestation of the failures of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy” and the “face of evil,” saying he was glad the president finally took action, according to Government Executive.

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But Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, struck a dissonant note, telling the Campbellsville Chamber of Commerce in Kentucky he has “mixed feelings” about the strikes and questions whether the U.S. should be putting its finger on the balancing scales in a Middle East squabble.

“I’m not saying I’m completely opposed to helping with arms or maybe even bombing, but I am concerned that ISIS is big and powerful because we protected them in Syria for a year,” Mr. Paul said, according to WBKO-TV.

“Do you know who also hates ISIS and who is bombing them? Assad, the Syrian government. The same people who want to bomb ISIS wanted to bomb Syria last year. Syria and ISIS are on opposite sides of the war. We’re now bombing both sides of one war that has spread into another country,” Mr. Paul said.

The libertarian-leaning senator has been skeptical of extensive U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts, as was his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, during his own bids for the GOP’s presidential nomination.

Analysts said the senator will have to be careful as he tries to appeal to GOP primary voters.

“I think, in general, people like someone who has convictions and who stands for something,” David Adesnik, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Washington Times. “The question is, can he navigate the rapids and not have to change too much?”

Mr. Adesnik said Mr. Paul will likely work with advisers to come up with a more firm foreign-policy stance in the months ahead.

“I don’t think Paul has a template yet, but he basically has a template for how to not do things,” Mr. Adesnik said.

Mr. Obama announced the airstrikes last week, saying they would be “limited in scope and duration.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, penned an editorial for Time questioning whether airstrikes alone will be enough to contain the threat from the Islamic State, and urging Mr. Obama to come up with a strategy for combating the broader advance of radical Islam.

He also accused the president of waiting too long.

“He has let the civil war in Syria simmer for years, creating the space for this jihadist threat to grow and letting instability spread to Syria’s neighbors,” Mr. Rubio wrote.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum criticized the president’s decision to withdraw troops in 2011, saying Democrats’ defense that the decision was made years earlier by President George W. Bush doesn’t wash.

“It’s stunning that they fall back on that it wasn’t their fault. I think that’s just false,” he said during the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, according to Government Executive.

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