Lindsey Graham on War & Peace
Republican Sr Senator; previously Representative (SC-3)
GRAHAM: I'm hearing there may be some Israelis casualties coming from the tunnels where they come out into Israel. But my view of the Israeli operation: Stay as long as you need to stay, go wherever you need to go, do deal with a viper's nest called Hamas. If I were Israel, I would stay in Gaza as long as I needed to, to stop the rockets for good.
Q: When you see a ground operation moving in this direction, resulting in heavier Israeli casualties, do you have any words of caution for Israel?
GRAHAM: My only words to the Israeli government and people is, "Clear it out. Close the tunnels. Shut down the rocket sites. Stay as long as you need to stay." Over 1,500 rockets have been fired. The only reason they have as few Israeli casualties is because of Iron Dome [missile defense]. If it's left up to Hamas, thousands of Israelis would be dead.
Q: What speed should the US withdraw the 66,000 remaining troops in Afghanistan?
GRAHAM: I think it should be done based on the best military advice our commanders can give.
Q: Apparently Gen. Allen wants them to stay until the end of next year.
GRAHAM: I think that's a good decision. I want to withdraw our forces in a reasoned way. I would love to be able to support Obama's winding down Afghanistan. I would love to be able to say you've done a good job here. Don't withdraw too quick. Leave them through next fall and withdraw in an organized manner, but announce soon, Mr. President, that we're not leaving Afghanistan. we're going to have a robust military force left behind, as an insurance policy against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Q: Give me a number.
GRAHAM: I think somewhere in the 15,000 to 20,000 range, depending on what the military commanders say
GRAHAM: I think we're trying to tell the Iranians that we would like a political negotiation, a diplomatic solution, but please understand in Iran that the Congress is intent on re-apply sanctions, if you walk away from the negotiating table, and if you cheat, I don't think that's a disruptive message. All we're telling the Iranians, "If you walk away from these negotiations, sanctions will be reapplied. If you cheat, they will be reimposed." But let me just say this. I'm willing to forgo sanctions if the president will take any deal he negotiates and brings it to Congress for our approval.
When asked about the al Qaeda operatives disguised within the opposition, Graham stated, "The Syrian people started this revolution through peaceful demonstrations. These radical Islamists are hijacking this revolution." Senator Graham recognizes the danger posed by the extremists. In fact, this acknowledgment drives his contention that the US must involve itself in the Syrian civil war. "The Iranians are backing Assad for a reason." He says, "We need to be backing people who would replace Assad who are not radical Islamists and that's most Syrians"
GRAHAM: No, I haven't been satisfied for a long time. Four things are going to happen if we don't change course in Syria
GRAHAM: There's nothing you can do in Syria without risk, but the greatest risk is a failed state with chemical weapons falling in the hands of radical Islamists.
GRAHAM: Yeah. I just don't make this up; I talk to people who are combat trained who have won in Iraq who I trust. Here's what I want to tell the Arab world and Turkey. We're not going to send 100,000 troops. You're going to do the fighting this time and we're gonna help you. We paid for the last two wars, you're gonna pay for this one. They get it because ISIL wants to cut their heads off, too. [The Turks and Arabs] have modern armies: 90% them, 10% us, and we go in and destroy the caliphate. The point I'm trying to make is, there needs to be a ground component. We need to be smart, and we need to fight the war over there. And to the people in my party who believe you can withdraw from the battlefield like Senator Cruz and Paul and we be safe, you really don't understand this war.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, once you liberate a country like Iraq, and you don't have a follow-up force, they fill in the gaps. Syria is a terror state. The civil war in Syria basically broke the country apart. And the only thing I can say is you have to deny the enemy safe haven. Returning from Iraq prematurely was a mistake. Not supporting the Free Syrian Army three or four years ago was a mistake. You've got to stay after these guys.
Q: What do you tell the country that's war-weary?
GRAHAM: You need to fight them over there or they're coming back here. It's better to partner than it is to go it alone. You've got to show the ability to stay with it. You try to get partners. The Free Syrian Army would be a good partner.
GRAHAM: There's been some. The idea of hitting them in Syria is long overdue. But this strategy of aerial bombardment is not going to work to destroy ISIL. We have a series of half- measures with ISIL that are going to draw this conflict out, and will not lead to the ISIL's destruction.
Q: That includes US ground troops?
GRAHAM: I think most Americans understand, if we don't destroy ISIL, if they survive our best shot, that we are all less safe. And you cannot destroy ISIL in Syria without a ground component. And what we're doing with the Free Syrian Army is militarily unsound. There is no way that I can see how we fix the problem in Iraq and Syria without American ground troops. So, Mr. President, level with the American people. You need boots on the ground. American soldiers need to go back to Syria and Iraq as part of a coalition. And we're going to need more than 4,000 to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
GRAHAM: We did.
Q: But if we did, then wasn't the president's decision OK? Why should we have stayed in Iraq?
GRAHAM: Every military commander said we needed between 10,000 & 20,000 troops. President Obama wanted zero. He said he promised to end the war. Well, what he did is, he lost the war, and this has come back to haunt us. I hope the next president will understand, listen to your commanders. And ISIL is a result of these mistakes.
[His opponent Thomas] Ravenel says, "Stop fearmongering using other people's sound bites--and other people's blood and treasure--and give us some hard numbers," Ravenel said. "Tell us exactly how much is it going to cost to mold Iraq into the country you want it to be? Trillions of dollars and thousands of lives have already been lost there in the name of 'nation-building'--yet the situation is worse than it's ever been."
President Barack Obama launched so-called "humanitarian" airstrikes in northern Iraq last week.
GRAHAM: We have common interests.
Q: Does that make you feel comfortable?
GRAHAM: No. Hell no, it doesn't. Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn't fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians. And the Turks need to get in the game and get the Sunni Arabs back into the game, form a new government without Maliki. But I don't want Iran to dominate Iraq. And that's where they're headed. If the central government falls, the Iranians are going on the Shia area of Iraq, the south. Don't let the Iranians save Baghdad. Let us save Baghdad, so there will be a chance at a second government.
GRAHAM: I would get the Arabs who are threatened by ISIL just as much as we are, along with Turkey. We would use their armies. They have modern armies. 90% them--but some of us have to go, folks. You're not going to keep the war from here if some of us don't go over there. 90% them, 10% us, and we go in and destroy the caliphate. There must be American boots on the ground in Syria to win. If you don't understand that, you're not ready to be Commander in Chief.
Q: You called for U.S. ground troops in both Iraq and Syria...
GRAHAM: Two years ago. If we had 10,000 troops left in Iraq, there would be no ISIL and I hate what Obama did. He gave away everything we fought for.
GRAHAM: I want to talk to General Keane first. I want to find out, what do we need militarily to keep them contained and eventually destroy them in Libya? They're in nine countries. You want to deal with Libya, go to Iraq and Syria. You want to prevent another 9/11, take the caliphate headquarters away from ISIL. There is no other way to do it without a ground force going into Syria.
GRAHAM: This is a religious war between radical Islam and the rest of the world. And there's only one way you're going to win. Help people in Islam who reject radical Islam to fight over there and destroy this ideology. Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do. Declare war on Islam itself. ISIL would be dancing in the streets. Declaring war on the religion only helps ISIL.
GRAHAM: I would form a regional army made of Arabs and Turks; American forces would be part of that army. We'd go in on the ground in Syria. We'd pull the caliphate up by the roots and we would take back land held by ISIL and hold it until Syria repairs itself. That requires American boots on the ground in Syria and we need more American boots on the ground in Iraq if we're going to protect the American homeland.
Q: If the Arabs such as Jordan and the Saudis and the UAE, Egypt, the Turks are eager to get in this fight, where are they?
GRAHAM: They're eager to get in the fight, but they're not going to go destroy ISIL unless we take a side out, too. To get a regional force, you have to accomplish two goals, to go in to destroy ISIL, which is a threat to the region, and also take out Assad, who is a puppet of Iran. Without putting Assad on the table, you're not going to be able to rally the region.˙
GRAHAM: Absolutely. Here's what I believe, without adjusting our strategy the worst is yet to come when it comes to ISIL, that the Obama strategy regarding destroying ISIL is not working and will not work. I hope the French will invoke Article V. They should. The world should be at war with ISIL.
GRAHAM: Here's what I've said, I intend to destroy ISIL. They want three things: they want to purify the Islamic faith and take it back to the 1100s, they want to destroy the state of Israel the attack infidels like us. President Obama said he will degrade and destroy ISIL. Sending 50 American Special Forces into Syria shows that Obama is not all in, it is a sign of weakness to ISIL. And to our allies, sending 50 troops means that we're not committed to destroying ISIL. And if we're not committed to destroying ISIL, they will attack us here. These 50 American special operators are going into a very bad spot with no chance of winning and at the end of the day, this will not destroy ISIL.
Q: No one on this stage has gone that far. So are you saying that they are not fit for the Oval Office?
GRAHAM: If they don't understand that Barack Obama's policies are not working, that we're not going to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria from the air, they are not ready. If we don't destroy ISIL soon, they are coming here. We're going to need a regional army, the Turks, the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Egyptians get their armies up together and 90% of it will be them. They're going to pay for this war because we paid for the last two. But 10 percent at least will have to be us and we're going in on the ground and we're going to pull the caliphate up by its roots and we're going to kill every one of these bastards we can find because, if we don't, they are coming here.
GRAHAM: If we don't stop them over there, they are coming here just as sure as I stand here in front of you. One thing I want to be clear about tonight. If you're running for president of the United States & you don't understand that we need more American ground forces in Iraq and that America has to be part of a regional ground force that will go into Syria and destroy ISIL in Syria, then you're not ready to be commander in chief. And you're not serious about destroying ISIL. According to the generals that I know and trust, this air campaign will not destroy ISIL. We need a ground force in Iraq and Syria, and America has to be part of that ground force. Syria's becoming a perfect platform to strike our nation. I've got a very simple strategy as your president against ISIL. Whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat them.
GRAHAM: Economic instability that comes from a collapsed Iraq will affect gas prices and our economic recovery. But the main reason is, if ISIS is not dealt with, that's the staging area for a new attack on the United States. They have a lot of wealth. They will plan an attack against our country. And my biggest fear is that they're going to march toward Jordan. And I hope America understands that, if the king of Jordan goes, if he's the victim of these guys, then the whole Mideast is in turmoil.
Q: And you really thinks that's possible?
Q: What makes you think they have the organization to pull something like that off?
GRAHAM: What makes you think they don't? Look what's happened. They have basically occupied a portion of Syria. They're going into Baghdad. They will consolidate economic and military power. They will march towards Jordan and Lebanon. And they will use that space to attack us.
GRAHAM: Because Iraq and Syria combined are going to be the staging area for the next 9/11 if we don't do something about it. The people holding ground in Iraq also hold ground in Syria. [We must attack ISIS to] stop the march on Baghdad. Form a new government. Send Petraeus and Crocker over, somebody who knows [what to do].
GRAHAM: Here's what I would do. I would tell the Russians that you're not going to use military force to keep Assad in power. That disrupts the region. It gives Iran more power at a time when they should have less. And the Syrian people are not going to accept Assad as their leader.˙ So I would tell the Russians, if you want to fight for Assad, that will be your choice, but what you will be doing is fighting the entire world. And let Russia make a decision. And here's what they would do, they would back out.
GRAHAM: [The administration] didn't call Putin the thug that he is. He didn't call for arming the Ukraine so they can defend themselves against rebel separatists supported by Russia. How about sanctions that would hit Putin as an individual? Their energy sector, their banking sector. The Europeans are never going to lead on this issue. It is indispensable that America lead.
Q: Obama would say that's a knee-jerk response to call for a more robust military reaction.
GRAHAM: Nothing knee-jerk is going on here. Indecision reigns. President Obama is trying to be deliberative. It comes off as indecisive. He's trying to be thoughtful. It comes off as weakness. I'm suggesting European, American-organized sanctions that go after Putin individually. I'm suggesting we put more NATO troops around Ukraine, that we rebuild the missile defense systems that Obama took down to let Putin know the path of least resistance is not to continue to dismember the Ukraine
Graham also released a new ad earlier this week touting his opposition to Obama on foreign policy: "He stands up for America and our troops, challenging the president, asking the tough questions on Iran, Benghazi and radical Islam," the ad's narrator says. "In a dangerous world where the only guarantee of peace is strength, Lindsey Graham stands strong."
Dr. Ben CARSON: I asked the Syrians themselves: What do you want? Their supreme desire was to be settled back in their own country. I said, "What can America do?" They said, "Support the efforts of those who are trying to provide safety for us, including the Jordanians." They had a brand new hospital, for instance, that was unstaffed because there wasn't enough money to do it. But if you go into Hasakah province, that's an area that's as big as Lebanon. It's controlled by the Kurds, the Christians and the moderate Sunnis. You could settle a lot of people there.
GRAHAM: I've been to the refugee camps in Turkey, and Jordan. We've got to stop this war. Do you realize that there are more Syrian refugees in Lebanon going to school than Lebanese children? Do you realize if this war goes for another year the King of Jordan could fall? Let's have a no-fly zone.
GRAHAM: You're not going to win that way, Rick. There's nobody left in Syria to train. Between the Russians and Assad, they have killed all the people we trained. I would get the Arabs who are threatened by ISIL just as much as we are, along with Turkey. We would use their armies. They have modern armies. 90% them, 10% us, and we go in and destroy the caliphate.
Sen. CRUZ: We need to learn from history. Obama, Clinton, and far too many Republicans--want to topple Assad. Assad is a bad man. But if we topple Assad, the result will be that ISIS will take over Syria. And I'll tell you whose view on Assad is the same as mine. It's Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu doesn't want to see Syria governed by ISIS. And we need to focus on American interests, not on global aspirations...
GRAHAM: They better be, because if we don't destroy ISIL in Syria, which is their headquarters, we're going to get attacked at home. The entire region wants Assad gone, so there's an opportunity here with some American leadership to do two things, which is to destroy ISIL before we get hit at home and also to push Assad out and not give yet another Arab capital to Damascus.
Q: Robert Kagan wrote that the kind of operation that you are recommending could require 40,000 - 50,000 troops.
GRAHAM: I think it will require more than that, but the good news,10% of the force will come from Western powers. The force that we're talking about will come from regional armies from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey. They have regional armies. They would go into the fight if you put Assad on the table. They will pay for this war.
GRAHAM: I haven't been told that by anybody. The holding force would be the region. We're talking about region coming together with a Western component, 90 percent them, 10 percent us. The holding will be done by Sunni Arab states. We will turn to Assad and say, you must go. Russia and Iran will be on the outside looking in to an entire regional army, including Turkey, with Western elements. They will fold like a cheap suit.
GRAHAM: Number one, how does President Obama sleep at night? Look what you let happen on your watch. Your commanders told you, "don't withdraw from Iraq because we'll lose our gains." Three years ago your entire national security team, Senator McCain and I begged you to do a no-fly zone and help the Free Syrian Army while it would matter. But you said no. I'm blaming Barack Obama for this mess.
GRAHAM: The answer now is to deny ISIL the safe haven they enjoy in Syria and Iraq because it is a platform to strike the United States. There are more [more terror attacks like in] Paris coming until you disrupt this network. There are more terrorist organizations with more safe havens, with more capability to hit the homeland than before 9/11. The answer is to form a regional coalition, America has to be part of it, go in on the ground, and get these guys out of Syria. The current strategy is failing. Everybody has told us on this trip that if you don't have a no-fly zone, the people we're training, the Free Syrian Army that we're training is going to go back into Syria and get slaughtered by Assad. There's no way to be successful on the ground without neutralizing Assad's air advantage. And so we need a no-fly zone desperately.
Graham never engaged his foes directly, but his comments encapsulated the arduous sell to the public. "I don't want another Iraq or Afghanistan war because that's just not what we need to do," he said, before outlining his support for a contained military strike designed to degrade Syria's ability to deliver chemical weapons in the future and assist those who want to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
Facing that strain of skepticism, Graham wound up his case on Syria intervention by raising the stakes considerably. He painted a frightening picture of cascading world events that would reverberate far beyond the borders of a civil war in one Middle Eastern country.
GRAHAM: I really don't know [Obama's goal]. But the goal should be to basically make sure Assad leaves. Last year, Assad was isolated; he was hanging by a thread. This year, he's entrenched with Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia. I think our goal should be in the short term is to balance the military power and providing small arms won't do it. So we need to create a no-fly zone to neutralize the Assad's air power.
Q: So you're saying [about Obama's plan] this is too late, this is too little?
GRAHAM: Right. What does it mean if they lose? Syria becomes a powder keg for the region. There's 60,000 Syrian children in Jordan. The kingdom is under siege in terms of refugees. Hezbollah is all over Syria, so Lebanon's even more unstable. Our policies are not working. And AK-47s will not neutralize the advantage that Assad has over the rebels. We need to do more.
Q: So only by taking out Assad can we have peace in this civil war?
GRAHAM: Assad must go.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LEVIN: "The amendment requires redeployment be completed within 9 months. At that point, funding for the war would be ended, with four narrow exceptions:"
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. McCAIN: "This year, after nearly 4 years of mismanaged war, our military has made significant gains under the so-called surge. Overall violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since . Improvised explosive device blasts now occur at a rate lower than at any point since September 2004.
"Al-Qaida's leadership knows which side is winning in Iraq. It may not be known in some parts of America and in this body, but al-Qaida knows. We are succeeding under the new strategy.
"Given these realities, some proponents of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq have shifted their focus. While conceding, finally, that there have been dramatic security gains, they have begun seizing on the lackluster performance of the Iraqi Government to insist that we should abandon the successful strategy and withdraw U.S. forces. This would be a terrible mistake."
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.
A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq and all United States personnel under his command should receive from Congress the full support necessary to carry out the United States mission in Iraq. Expresses the sense of the Senate that:
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