The core underlying differentiator between Obama and Rubio on ISIS isn't really a disagreement about ISIS or about Iraq or about Syria. Rather, it's Rubio's intellectual and emotional investment in a worldview which holds that American strength begets more American strength, versus Obama's more literal view that expenditures of American resources in one area means that fewer resources are available in other areas.I think Rubio's belligerence would turn out just as badly as George W. Bush's did. But I think there is a real chance he will be the next President and therefore a real chance that this will be our policy.
Rubio thinks that in addition to deploying ground troops to Iraq, intensifying air strikes in Syria, and preparing for possible war with Iran we should be getting tougher on China. But also getting tougher on Russia. And for good measure getting tougher on Cuba and on the Palestinians.
Rubio's view is that this isn't biting off more than we can chew because a foreign policy grounded in toughness and moral clarity will create a situation in which "our enemies and our adversaries will not dare test us, because they know that if they do they will not prevail."
By making it clear that we are willing to do whatever it takes, we will intimidate foes and bend them to our will. On that account, there is no opportunity cost to pouring additional resources into the fight against ISIS because success will establish American credibility and increase our strength.
Obama, by contrast, clearly views entanglements in the Middle East as crowding out other priorities. He told me in January that by shifting to a "smaller footprint" in Iraq and Afghanistan his administration has been able to "get at the actual problem" while conservative resources in a way that "frees us up to be able to send a team to prevent Ebola" and address other global crises. On this view getting sucked into open-ended military commitments is the worst mistake we can make. An ISIS or an al-Qaeda can murder Americans but they have absolutely no ability to defeat the American military or directly cripple our economy. What they can do is bait us into costly adventures that drain our resources and polarize opinion around the Muslim world. To Obama, the crucial thing is to avoid overreactions that will pull us deeper into the quicksand. To Rubio, the imperative is exactly the opposite — to show that we are willing to go further and do whatever it takes to prevail.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Obama vs. Rubio on How to Fight the Islamic State
Matt Yglesias compares Marco Rubio's plan for fighting the Islamic State, which includes sending ground troops to both Iraq and Syria, to Obama's policies: