Charleston, S.C. — Jeb Bush Wednesday called for the immediate formation of a U.S.-led coalition to combat ISIS with ground troops in the Middle East, a muscular proposal that goes beyond his past prescriptions for more airstrikes.
“While air power is essential, it alone cannot bring the results we seek,” Bush said in a speech to The Citadel military college here. “The United States — in conjunction with our NATO allies and more Arab partners — will need to increase our presence on the ground.”
Bush’s campaign had framed Wednesday’s speech as a major address on his plans to rebuild the military. But last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris shifted his focus, Bush advisers say, and prompted him to use the speech to prescribe a more hawkish foreign-policy plan than any of his major rivals for the GOP nomination.
“Since the attacks in Paris, the demand for action to stamp out ISIS has rightly grown,” Bush said. “The United States should not delay in leading a global coalition to take out ISIS with overwhelming force. As the words of French President Hollande have made clear, the United States will not be alone in galvanizing this global effort.”
#share#Indeed, Bush emphasized that while American boots on the ground are necessary to defeat ISIS, the heavy lifting will be done by Arab fighters under the guidance of a U.S.-led global coalition.
Bush acknowledged that if his proposal becomes reality, hundreds of cadets in the room Wednesday will be at the tip of the spear.
“Let there be no doubt, this will not be easy,” Bush said. “Some of you in this room will serve on the front lines of that fight against ISIS and against radical Islamic terrorism. You will sign up for an uncertain fate, on foreign fields of battle, because your country, and the cause of freedom, are calling you.”
— Tim Alberta is chief political correspondent for National Review.