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Armed Services Chairman Calls for Strategy to Combat ISIS

McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is calling for the president to consult Congress on the U.S. response to jihadists in Iraq and Syria. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

More House lawmakers are warning President Barack Obama he needs to articulate a broader anti-terrorism strategy — and consult with Congress on that plan — before ramping up military action against anti-U.S. jihadists in northern Iraq and Syria.  

Armed Services Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif. is the most recent member to release such a statement after the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria executed American photojournalist James Foley last week. "I challenge the President to engage Congress," McKeon said in his statement Wednesday. "I’m willing to work with him."  

McKeon added, however, that while a plan to address ISIS's growing power "may well require additional authorities from Congress ... speculation about that before the President has even offered a strategy is putting the cart before the horse."  

Barack Obama, McKeon continued, "need[s] ... to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, and the strategy for how to achieve them. Only after we understand all this can we contemplate what new authorities might be needed." McKeon's suggestion that Obama has not yet articulated his long-term vision for combatting ISIS echoes criticism from other senior House Republicans, namely Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who back in June accused Obama of "taking a nap" on Iraq .  

Some House Democrats are also calling for Congress to be actively involved in decision-making when it comes to ISIS. Yesterday, Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., released a statement asking that the chamber reconvene before the official end of the five-week August recess to deal with the matter at hand.  

Here is McKeon's full statement:

“ISIS is a clear and present threat to our allies across the Middle East and to the United States. There is no negotiating with ISIS or deterring it. It must be defeated and destroyed. Doing so demands a comprehensive strategy combining diplomatic, political, and military efforts, and the contributions from a broad coalition of countries. Such a strategy will require time, commitment, and leadership that America is uniquely suited to provide. This comprehensive approach may well require additional authorities from Congress, but speculation about that before the President has even offered a strategy is putting the cart before the horse. We need the President to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, and the strategy for how to achieve them. Only after we understand all this can we contemplate what new authorities might be needed. I challenge the President to engage Congress. I’m willing to work with him, and I would offer a few factors for him to keep in mind. First, ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time. Second, good strategies keep options on the table and keep an adversary guessing, instead of telegraphing what we won’t do. No leader ever won a conflict by first declaring what steps he was unwilling to take – or, for that matter, leaking details about steps he actually is taking. Third, the ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time. They are not likely to be decisively defeated quickly, but will have to be faced by this President and his successors. Therefore, strategy and decisions made by the President now should preserve future options, not foreclose them. Finally, this enemy must be defeated, but if we are not going to adequately resource our effort, we will only make a very complex security situation worse.”