The man poised to be the next House speaker said Monday that the U.S. needs to assume a more aggressive posture around the world, saying the key to foreign policy is making it “painful” for countries to misbehave.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy backed calls for a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone over Syria, saying it would boost the fight against the Islamic State rebels and also curtail the Syrian regime’s ability to strike its own citizens.
And he said just as backers of the 2003 Iraq war must answer whether it was a good move in hindsight, the Obama White House and congressional Democrats must be forced to say whether the U.S. retrenchment from the region was the right more in hindsight, since it led to chaos in Syria.
“Would you give up cities like Ramadi — where our Marines gave their last measure of devotion — so the president could keep a campaign promise? I look forward to that question being asked,” Mr. McCarthy said.
The California Republican is the most likely replacement for House Speaker John A. Boehner, who announced last week he will retire at the end of next month, which has set of a scramble for his post. Mr. McCarthy, who has been majority leader for a year, is running for the spot, and all sides expect he’ll succeed.
His speech Monday suggested continuity with Mr. Boehner — though with a more aggressive posture.
Mr. McCarthy said the U.S. should more deeply commit special forces to the combat mission against the Islamic State, must bolster intelligence and free military commanders to pursue the war in Syria and Iraq.
He also said the U.S. should use energy policy as a weapon to bolster allies and to counter foes such as Russia and Iran, and said the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic will spark more terrorism and a potential regional arms race.
“You don’t induce your enemies into good behavior. You make it too painful to continue bad behavior,” he said.