Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday warned against isolationism within the Republican Party in the face of the “grave strategic threat” from the Islamic State.
After delivering remarks at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Cheney was asked about a Washington Post article that said “the young and dovish libertarians sat silently” while the former vice president spoke to House Republicans Tuesday.
“There is without question a strain of isolationism, if you will, some call it a strong feeling against war. It's a view you'll find in various places in our society and there is a certain part of our party that I think holds to those precepts,” Cheney said.
Speaking on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Cheney said 19 men hijacked four airplanes and killed nearly 3,000 people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. That fact, he said, should dispel isolationist notions.
“It's difficult to buy into the proposition that we'll be safe if we just stay behind our oceans and let the rest of the world stew in its own juices,” Cheney continued. “Part of the problem obviously is to remind my friends in the Republican side of the aisle, as well as some of the Democrats, that the issues I talk about here are very real and very imminent.”
Cheney also had a message for a different kind of hawk — budget hawks — that includes Republicans who support scaling back military spending.
“We can't pursue the course, for example, that says when we cut the defense budget, well, at least we cut something,” Cheney said. “We do indeed need to play a very active role in the world and I just believe those who advocate an isolationist course are dead wrong.”
In July, Cheney referred to Sen. Rand Paul as an isolationist. However, the Kentucky Republican known for libertarian views of a restrained foreign policy, recently said, “If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress, I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."
Paul broke from his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul who said last week: “A new U.S. military incursion will not end ISIS. It will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the U.S. treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted.”
President Barack Obama is delivering an address to the nation Wednesday night regarding a strategy for combatting the Islamic State, a Sunni militant group that has carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Iraq and Syria and recently beheaded two American journalists.
Speaking to AEI, Cheney blamed Obama for the rise of the terrorist group.
“While the president was claiming the tide of war was receding and core Al Qaeda had been decimated, the threat was actually increasing,” Cheney said. “From Iraq, Syria and Yemen, over to Pakistan, all the way down to Somalia and Nigeria and various places under various names, a whole new wave of jihadists was on the rise.”
He asked the audience to listen for a realistic strategy in Obama's speech. While he didn't call for ground troops, Cheney stressed that the battle should be on multiple fronts and not phased in.
“The situation is dire and defeating these terrorists will require immediate sustained, simultaneous action across multiple fronts,” Cheney said. “Phasing in our actions will not suffice. Such a strategy will only prolong the conflict and increase the casualties.”
“ISIS does not recognize a border between Syria and Iraq so neither should we,” Cheney added. “We should immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers and lines of communication wherever we find them.”
He contrasted Obama's previous comments as viewing “American influence as a problem to be solved in the world rather than a solution to be offered,” with that of past U.S. presidents.
“There is a connection between these problems, between a disengaged president and some very volatile situations abroad,” Cheney said.