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Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA

Where’s the Republican plan for Mideast? Brad Sherman


Sep 12, 2014

The past few weeks have proven that some Republicans intend to exploit our problems in the Middle East as a way to drag partisanship into foreign policy, malign the president, and avoid responsibility. Their constant refrain is to demand the president “produce a plan.”

First, the president put forward a plan on Wednesday evening. The Republicans blasted the plan as insufficiently detailed. Yet the Obama plan is just as detailed as the plans put forward for the invasion of Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq by the previous administration. As we learned in those wars, plans are broad outlines which must be changed once battle commences.

Second, were the president to provide additional detail, Republicans would attack him for revealing our strategy and plans to the enemy.

We are all disgusted by the beheadings of American journalists and alarmed by the early military success of ISIS. However, the president recognizes that while the situation calls for action, its complexity calls for caution. He has already ordered more than 150 airstrikes which have punished ISIS, killing hundreds of its fighters and securing military victories by protecting the Mosul dam, the Haditha dam, the Yazidi minority, our Kurdish allies and the Shiite Turkmen. Just as importantly, we have pushed back ISIS and prevented its further expansion in Iraq.

Yet, the simple-minded argue that all of our problems in the Middle East would disappear if we only we had a president with a different personality. Or they assume that ISIS can be destroyed immediately without any American boots on the ground.

The greatest flaw in this simple thinking is to focus exclusively on whom we want to destroy without asking who will be empowered by such destruction.

Who are the enemies of ISIS that ISIS is fighting today? Who would step into the vacuum if ISIS were rapidly destroyed? The answer is first the al-Nusra Front, an ISIS rival in Syria which, of course, is part of al-Qaida. Second is Assad, who has killed more than 190,000 of his own people. Third is the extremist Shiite militias and perhaps former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The former killed hundreds of Americans in the last decade, and the latter led Iraq so poorly, he played a major role in creating ISIS. Fourth is Hezbollah and its patron Iran, who killed hundreds of Americans in Lebanon in 1983 and killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq in the last decade.

And yet through all the criticism one question remains: where’s the Republican plan for dealing with ISIS? Vice President Dick Cheney has put forward no plan, just an expression of anger and partisanship. Neither Speaker Boehner nor the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee has put forward a plan. The Republican think-tanks with all their expertise in national security have not put forward a plan endorsed by Republican leadership.

But it seems the Republicans do have a different kind of plan: a plan to reap political advantage from the Middle East crisis, while avoiding any responsibility for making decisions.

The Republicans understand that no one can draft a plan that will meet the hopes of the American people. Americans want a plan that guarantees the immediate and total destruction of ISIS, without significant American casualties.

Rather than adding constructive suggestions to crafting our foreign policy under difficult circumstances, the Republicans want to imply that they could offer a guarantee of the immediate and total destruction of ISIS without casualties — if only they were in power.

Speaker Boehner has adopted a legislative strategy designed to allow Republicans to criticize the president, while taking no responsibility for the decisions that are about to be made. Congress should debate a War Powers Act Resolution which would authorize the use of military force by the president and set forth the conditions and limitations on such authorization.

Participating in foreign policy is Congress’ role under the Constitution. Simply attacking the president is not a plan for dealing with ISIS; it’s a plan for dealing with midterm elections.

Congressman Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, represents California’s 30th District in the San Fernando Valley.