How the Top Republican Candidates Would Combat the Islamic State

Most favor stepping up military engagement in Syria and Iraq.

Will the Paris Attacks Be a Turning Point in GOP Race?

In the days since Friday's coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, Republican presidential candidates have stepped up their criticism of the Obama administration's strategy to counter the rise of Islamic State fighters. 

The top five GOP candidates in terms of polling averages have advocated differing strategies for how to best protect the U.S., though most favor stepping up military engagement in Syria and Iraq. Here's a sampling of what they've been proposing.

Donald Trump: Domestic surveillance

“You’re going to have to watch and study the mosques because a lot of talk is going on at the mosques,” Trump said when asked what should be done to protect U.S. citizens on MSNBC's Morning Joe. “From what I heard, in the old days, meaning a while ago, we had great surveillance going on in and around mosques in New York City and I understand our mayor totally cut that out.”

Asked about possibility of France shutting mosques with radical ties and whether he’d do same as U.S. president, the billionaire said, “I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider because some of the ideas and some of the hatred, the absolute hatred, is coming from these areas.”

Ben Carson: Coalition T.B.D. 

Repeatedly pressed on Fox News Sunday by host Chris Wallace about whom Carson would reach out to to form a coalition to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), Carson refused to offer a narrowed list. 

“I would call for all of the Arab state to be involved in this. I would call for all of our traditional allies to be involved in this. You know, I don’t want to leave anybody out,” the retired neurosurgeon said. “Utilizing our special ops, which our absolutely terrific, in conjunction with the Kurds in northern Iraq, you can see how effective that is.”


Marco Rubio: Twitter salt for ISIS wounds

“First, I would ask our allies to invoke Article 5. This is clearly an act of war and an attack on one of our NATO allies, and we should invoke Article 5 of the NATO agreement, and bring everyone together to put together a coalition to confront this challenge,” Rubio said Sunday, appearing on ABC's This Week

The Florida senator also called for waging war not just on the ground, but on social media as well. “Key to the success of this is we're going to have to conduct an increased number of special operations attacks, targeting ISIS leadership, and revealing that they are not invincible; in essence, subjecting them to high profile, humiliating defeats, where we strike them, we capture or kill their leaders, we videotape the operations, we publicize them because this is a group that heavily uses propaganda to attract fighters and donors from around the world,” Rubio said on This Week. “And they are presenting themselves as this invincible force. And we need to cut off that narrative. It isn't true. And that's important. And we will need a—much more than 50 special operators on the ground.”

Ted Cruz: Shock and awe

“We will have a commander-in-chief who takes seriously defeating radical Islamic terrorism,” the Texas senator said, appearing Saturday on Fox News. “I recognize that Barack Obama does not wish to defend this country. He may have been tired of war, but our enemies are not tired of killing us, and they’re getting stronger. Every region on earth has gotten worse under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy. Now, that doesn’t mean we should be sending our sons and daughters to invade foreign countries and stay there forever and engage in nation building, trying to turn Iraq into Switzerland. That’s not what our object should be, but we need a commander-in-chief who says we will defeat radical Islamic terrorism, and let me tell you what that would look like: That would look like, number one, using overwhelming military power, particularly air power. You know in the first Persian Gulf war we had roughly 11 hundred air attacks a day. Obama right now is doing 15 to 30 air attacks a day. It’s pinprick, it’s photo-op foreign policy.”

Jeb Bush: Zone defense

“What I would do is to do what I proposed at the Reagan Library two months ago, which is to defeat ISIS, and to defeat Assad, to bring stability because it's in our national security interest to do it. That requires a no-fly zone, safe zones, it requires arming directly the Kurdish forces in Iraq,” the former Florida governor said Monday on Fox & Friends. “It means reengaging with the Sunni tribal leaders that were successful in fighting with us side-by-side with the surge. It means a strategy. We don't have a strategy right now. This president is incrementally getting us into a quagmire without a strategy to defeat ISIS. This is a threat to western civilization, a threat to our own country. We need to be merciless in this effort. I would listen to the military commanders and build a strategy to defeat ISIS.”

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