Elections

Here’s What Each Presidential Candidate Wants To Do About ISIS

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Islamic State has been a hot button issue in the 2016 election as U.S. voters have prioritized national security concerns.

In a Pew research poll conducted in January, Americans for the first time in five years said that combating terrorism was as important a priority as strengthening the economy. As a result, each candidate running for office has spoken at length as to what they will do to combat the threat posed by terrorist groups like the Islamic State. Below are the strategies each candidate would employ to counter the ISIS threat if elected President.

Donald Trump

No other candidate has captured the public’s attention on ISIS quite like Trump. His rhetoric has rallied many to his banner in addition to alienating opponents, including many Republicans. Trump’s statements on combating ISIS have often been charged, yet his actual stated policy is fairly limited.

According to his campaign website, Trump intends to “get rid of ISIS, we’re gonna get rid of them, fast.” In his public statements, Trump has suggested everything from utilizing the nuclear option against ISIS to putting a halt on Muslim immigration into the country so as to prevent an attack on U.S. soil. Speaking just after the Brussels terrorist attacks, Trump suggested that loosening the laws on methods like waterboarding.

He has been unclear as to whether or not he would commit ground forces to the fight, but did acknowledge that he would heed the advice of military leadership on the issue.

Hillary Clinton

Shortly after the Brussels attacks, Hillary Clinton tweeted out an image of her supposedly groundbreaking ‘three point plan’ that she considers a “real” strategy to counter ISIS. Step one would be “take out ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq and Syria.” Step two, “dismantle the global terror network, and finally “harden our defenses at home and prevent attacks.”

Clinton’s website outlines some of the details behind her plan, which avoids use of U.S. ground forces. Instead, as president she would seek to “empower our partners to defeat terrorism and the ideologies that drive it.” In particular, Clinton would seek to bolster governments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen.

She has been particularly outspoken in her opposition to comments from Senator [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] and Donald Trump arguing in favor of halting Muslim immigration and patrolling Muslim neighborhoods, saying such statements are “dangerous.” Clinton has stated that “Muslims … have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” and argues for greater cooperation with the Muslim community in confronting terrorism.

Senator Ted Cruz

Cruz stated after the Brussels attacks that “we need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Cruz has often voiced his concern over the spread ISIS ideology in the U.S., and has made countering it a top priority.

While Cruz has not gone as far as Trump in banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., he has suggested halting immigration coming from countries with “a significant al-Qaida or ISIS presence.” He is also a major proponent of securing the border with Mexico in order to prevent any terrorists from using the porous border as a corridor into the U.S.

Cruz has been apprehensive to commit U.S. troops to the ground war against ISIS, saying he believes U.S. ground troops should be used as a last resort. In lieu of an American ground force, he has said he would properly arm and support the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq; a group he believes is not being properly funded by the Obama administration. He does, however, take exception to arming Syrian rebels without a clear strategy.

The air war against ISIS would be the primary focus of a Cruz presidency. Not only has he advocated for intensifying strikes, Cruz has repeatedly called for “carpet bombing” ISIS positions, claiming the Obama administration’s current air campaign does not do enough.

Though Cruz is in favor of a heavy hand against ISIS, he has also noted that a permanent solution to the threat would require strict measures, such as removing the citizenship of Americans who go to fight for ISIS so they cannot return and attack the U.S.

Senator Bernie Sanders

Sanders’ ISIS policy is the most hands-off of the current crop of candidates. Whereas his fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton advocates for a U.S. leadership in the fight against ISIS, Sanders believes it is the responsibility of Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey to lead the fight against the problem.

“What we do … is we work to put together a very effective coalition of Muslim nations who lead the effort on the ground, supported by the United States, the U.K., France, and other major powers in the air and through training,” said Sanders Wednesday during an interview with PBS.

Like the Republican candidates, Sanders is in favor of arming the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS in northern Iraq.

He has been very critical of the lack of prioritization on the ISIS threat from Arab allies. “[Qatar is] spending $200 billion for the World Cup. Well, they may want to spend some money helping us destroy ISIS. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait are going to have to play a greater role.”

Sanders has also argued for increased intelligence capabilities, monitoring of people who enter the country and greater federal cooperation with local law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

Sanders has said if elected, he would counter his perceived “hatred being generated against Muslims in this country.”

Unlike Clinton, Sanders did not vote in favor of invading Iraq and has consistently argued that the U.S. should not repeat its mistakes in the country, as opposed to offering a clear solution. He has been particularly wary of getting too involved in Syria, as he sees it as a “quagmire within a quagmire.”

Governor John Kasich

The mild-mannered governor of Ohio breaks from other candidates when it comes to ISIS policy, particularly in his support for committing U.S. troops to the ground war against the terrorist organization.

In an op-ed for Time magazine in November, Kasich outlined his plan for fighting ISIS. He believes in addition to committing a ground force to the fight, the U.S. must create a no-fly zone to protect civilians in Syria and continue arming the various Kurdish partners in the region. Like fellow Republican Ted Cruz, he wants to stay out of the Syrian civil war and only would enter Syria to fight the ISIS threat. Kasich also argues for fighting ISIS in the propaganda war on social media and the Internet by reiterating Western “root values.”

Unlike Trump or Cruz, Kasich does not support measures that would limit Muslim immigration or patrol Muslim neighborhoods.

“We are not at war with Islam; we’re at war with radical Islam,” said Kasich Tuesday, in response to Cruz’s statements. “The last thing we need is more polarization.”

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