Apparently, Jeb Bush doesn’t just want to become the third Bush president, but also the third one to commit ground troops to the Middle East.
According to msnbc.com, Bush called for ground troops to be sent to Syria to fight ISIS during a national security speech he gave today at The Citadel, South Carolina’s prestigious military academy. “Militarily, we need to intensify our efforts in the air–and on the ground,” Bush told his audience.
While he called for the deployment of ground troops, he stopped short of recommending a specific number, stating that he would defer to the recommendations of his military advisors on that issue.
Like his father did as commander of the first Gulf War, Bush does not envision unilateral U.S. action for Syria. Rather, he intends for the U.S. to defeat ISIS by leading a “global coalition” made up of allies from NATO and the Middle East. Unlike his brother with Iraq, Bush does not seem to be under the illusion that a ground invasion will yield a quick fix: “Let there be no doubt, this will not be easy.”
Though it won’t be easy, Bush insisted that ground troops are necessary to defeat ISIS and that he is the best presidential candidate to lead this campaign: “This brutal savagery is a reminder of what is at stake in this election. If these attacks remind us of anything, it is that we are living in serious times that require serious leadership.”
As Bloomberg.com reports, Bush is not the first GOP candidate to support a ground effort in the fight against ISIS, as Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, and John Kasich have already stressed the need for boots on the ground in Syria. However, the timing of Bush’s declaration makes it seem like a direct response to President Obama’s statement in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks that sending ground troops would be a “mistake.”
Indeed, Bush went to great lengths in the speech to make it clear that he was offering an alternative to the current administration’s ISIS strategy, as well Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton’s, strategy against Isis. “I reject their diminished view of America’s role in the world. In my administration, security for the United States will mean gaining and keeping the edge in every category, old and new.”
Of course, Bush can afford to campaign on this position because he is not currently accountable for sending troops into combat. Interestingly, the person who is accountable, President Obama, sounded much like Bush’s father when he explained on Monday why he still opposes deploying ground troops in the wake Paris attacks.
“It is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers that [deploying ground troops] would be a mistake,” Obama explained, “because we could see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is if you do not have local population that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface, unless we’re prepared to have permanent occupation of these countries.”
Not only do these words echo the first President Bush’s rationale for not overthrowing Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War, but they essentially comprise a more sophisticated expression of Colin Powell’s notorious “pottery barn rule” that he used to try to persuade President George W. Bush to not invade Iraq in 2003: If you break it, you own it.
In his speech to The Citadel today, the potential third Bush president offered no plan for how his administration would “own it” if his administration were to send ground troops into Syria. And that is the luxury of being a mere candidate for the presidency, rather than the one who actually holds the office.