Bipartisan Support, With Caveats, for Obama on Iraq Airstrikes
WASHINGTON — President Obama drew bipartisan support on Friday from members of Congress for his decision to authorize military strikes in Iraq, but the backing was tempered with substantial concern — including within Mr. Obama’s own party — about his strategy for the operation.
Republicans suggested that the administration had acted too slowly and timidly to confront the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, and now was moving too cautiously against the group. Some said he should not rule out ground troops.
Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio accused the president of “parochial thinking” that had emboldened the enemy and “squanders the sacrifices Americans have made.”
“The president’s authorization of airstrikes is appropriate, but like many Americans, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region,” the speaker said in a statement. “Vital national interests are at stake, yet the White House has remained disengaged despite warnings from Iraqi leaders, Congress and even members of its own administration.”
Democrats and the antiwar groups that make up a crucial part of their political base said they were concerned about “mission creep,” cautioning that their opposition to committing American ground forces in Iraq was resolute.
“While the president has existing authority to protect American diplomatic personnel, I remain concerned about U.S. mission creep in Iraq and escalation into a larger conflict, which I oppose,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, who is one of the party’s leading antiwar voices on Capitol Hill.
Ms. Lee said that she backed “strictly humanitarian efforts to prevent a genocide in Iraq,” and that the president must ask Congress for authorization for “any further military action” there.
Ordinarily, such criticism would hold little importance for limited military engagements, but Mr. Obama, in perhaps one of the most glaring foreign policy missteps of his presidency, turned to Congress last year for authorization to strike Syria and was rebuffed. Even Mr. Obama’s allies on intervention, both in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, expressed an emboldened skepticism and demanded a larger role in the administration’s foreign policy
“While I support the administration’s short-term actions to respond to the current crisis, I expect them to lay out in the coming days the objectives they hope to achieve and the related time frame,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who co-wrote the defeated resolution on a Syria strike. “In addition, while I appreciate being informed in advance of this announcement, I also expect the administration to cite the relevant authorities they are relying upon for these actions.”
Still, some of the most informed voices in both parties said military action against the extremists in Iraq was necessary and probably belated.
“This is a very serious situation,” said Representative C. A. (Dutch) Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, reflecting the opinions of more hawkish Democrats. “This ISIL is dangerous. They’re strong. They have command and control. They have weaponry.” ISIL is an alternative name for ISIS.
That view is shared by Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who said he backed the airstrikes — which he had been urging since January — but was concerned that Mr. Obama was not mounting a comprehensive enough effort to annihilate the threat from ISIS.
“If this is the beginning of a real effort to push back ISIS and destroy them, then I definitely support that,” Mr. Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran and Air National Guardsman who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview. “Unfortunately, he did not have the intensity to come out and say that we have to destroy them. I think the president is frightened of re-engaging in Iraq, and I don’t think he really knows how to sell the reality of re-engaging to the American people.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, also said that Mr. Obama must do more to explain the goal and limits of the operation, but he spoke from a much different perspective.
“Humanitarian relief is necessary to prevent genocide and provide food and water to meet an urgent emergency, but the president owes the American people a better, fuller explanation of the scope and strategy of military actions,” he said. “I am deeply concerned that these actions could lead to prolonged direct military involvement, which I would strongly oppose.”
Antiwar groups were deeply critical of the airstrikes.
Angela Canterbury, the executive director of the Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the groups “categorically condemn President Obama’s renewed military engagement by the United States in Iraq,” adding, “We cannot afford another unwinnable war overseas.”
In a statement, she called on Congress to cut short its five-week summer recess and return to Washington to “assert its constitutional role in matters of military involvement overseas.”
Anna Galland of MoveOn.org Civic Action said news of the military operations was “deeply disturbing,” raising concern about “mission creep, unintended consequences and incremental escalation.”
To read this article in its orginal format, go here.