Rep. Tom Cole: Take Time on ISIS Strategy

Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 06:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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There is "too much emphasis on acting now" when it comes to dealing with the threat posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole said Sunday.

Instead of acting immediately, the United States needs to be smart about what it does, said Cole, who was part of a roundtable discussion on ABC's "This Week" along with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd, and ABC's Cokie Roberts.

While many Republicans are criticizing President Barack Obama about his lack of a strategy on ISIS, Cole said he believes the elements are already there.

"We know we're going to use air power," he said. "We know we're going to use special operators. We know we're going to have to build alliances on the ground...and we know probably — we'll be involved in training and supplying and equipping indigenous forces."
Matters are more difficult in Syria, said Cole, because the United States doesn't "have any pre-existing relationships there."

Instead of the president saying there is no strategy, he should have said "we're developing a policy, a new policy," Richardson commented.

But he also applauds the president for the actions he has already taken, as he believes the ISIS threat "is a potential 911 moment. These are very serious foreign policy issues."

Obama has been faced with several issues in the Middle East, said Richardson, calling for the United States to develop a policy on ISIS "carefully" after learning more about the jihadist organization.

"Yeah, we're learning more," said Richardson. "They're bad. But what is their goal? Can they reach the American homeland? Can they — are they a regional power? Obviously they are a threat to the Kurds. They're a threat in Iraq."

However, Richardson believes that the United States should not fight Isis alone, but instead as part of a coalition.

"The good news here is that a lot of entities fear these people, like Hezbollah, like Iran, like Iraq, like Turkey, like Qatar, like the United Arab Emirates," said Richardson. "So there's great potential to build a coalition. My point here is let's do it right. Let's get the Congress involved, let's take this to the Congress.

Cole, ironically, said he believes there may be a bright spot for the United States in the entire situation.

"For too long, we had war as a concept," said Cole. "War was a war on terrorism, which is a concept. It never works when you don't have a specific country or a specific enemy, and, therefore, you don't know what the definition of victory."

And with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it's "like what happens in a room," he said. "You put all the cheese in a room and all the rats come run into the room and you know where they are. For the first time, we know where all the rats are."

Meanwhile, Richardson said that the United States needs to be careful.

"This is a momentous decision," he said. "I think the president was right to say, 'OK, well, we're going to do the airstrikes. We're doing them in Iraq.' "

And if he was advising the president, Richardson said he'd advise airstrikes against ISIS in Syria as well.

"But let's do it in a targeted way," he said. "Let's not help Assad. Remember, you don't want to help Assad with this. And Assad is also against these guys."

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