GOP presidential debate in Vegas: The joker is Trump

At this point, the Republican nomination is up for grabs, but my money is on anyone but Trump

Caitlin Miller
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In the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” This is not a sentiment shared by the Republican establishment, and at its core is contrary to the beliefs and values of the United States of America. Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan, denounced Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Ryan said, “This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and more importantly it’s not what this country stands for.” Not only is Trump’s proposal not conservatism, it is nonsensical. One of the San Bernardino terrorists was an American citizen, born and raised on U.S. soil.

At the Republican presidential debate on Tuesday night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio called Trump’s “policy” proposal unconstitutional. Rubio also highlighted the obvious: U.S. Muslim allies in the Middle East hope to defeat ISIS as much as Americans do. He said that these allies “have as much invested in this as we do. In fact, more so, for it is the king of Saudi Arabia they want to behead first. It's the king of Jordan that they want to dethrone.” Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, called Trump “unhinged” and a “chaos candidate.” Bush asked, “If we're going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?”

Bush is right. Building a coalition with European and Middle Eastern allies is essential to defeating ISIS. The next Commander in Chief must engage with Muslim countries in the Middle East to eradicate this common threat. Bush emphasized, “If we expect to do this on our own, we will fail but if we do it in unison with people who are also are at risk and threatened by Islamic Radical terrorism, we'll be far more successful.” It is apparent that Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims is not only offensive, but it is the wrong approach to defeating ISIS and a recipe for disaster.


While Trump suggested that he would close the internet as a potential strategy to fight ISIS, Bush, Fiorina, and Christie suggested a no-fly zone in Syria. Bush said, “We need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees.” Safe zones have the potential to provide an immediate haven for the over 7 million internally displaced Syrians. In spite of the discernible benefits, Obama rejects a no fly zone in Syria. Christie remarked, “If you think that a no-fly zone is a reckless policy, you're welcome to your opinion. But how is it working so far? As we have 250,000 Syrians murdered, slaughtered; millions running around the world, running for their lives.”

On Tuesday night, the GOP presidential candidates discussed the deep distrust of the Obama administration from both Americans and allies abroad. Rubio stressed that U.S. allies in the Middle East “have lost complete trust and confidence in this president. This president cut a deal with their moral enemy, the Shia, in Iran. And this is the reason why they no longer trust this president and are willing to work alongside them.” Perhaps, the only country where Obama has improved regional relations is Iran.

Obama’s deal with Iran only further empowered and enriched the Islamic Republic. Iran is a nefarious interloper in the region and its connection to insurgencies from Bahrain to Yemen to Syria is undeniable. Christie explained the need to focus U.S. efforts on Iran in the defeat of ISIS because “the two are inextricably connected because one causes the other.” Rubio added, “Assad is a puppet of Iran. And he has been so brutal toward the Sunni within Syria that he created the space...that led to the chaos which allowed ISIS to come in and take advantage of that situation and grow more powerful.”

While it is difficult to ascertain a clear winner from Tuesday evening’s debate, the real losers were Obama’s foreign policy and former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Cruz called Obama’s policy in Syria “photo op” foreign policy and Christie called the Commander in Chief a “feckless weakling.” Fiorina said that Clinton got almost every foreign policy challenge wrong. Clinton called Assad a reformer, executed the disastrous “Russia reset,” and lied about Benghazi.

Foreign policy

Fiorina assigned both Clinton and Obama responsibility for the meteoric rise of ISIS “because they precipitously withdrew from Iraq in 2011 against the advice of every single general and for political expediency.” Obama and Clinton’s sheer display of weakness in the fight against ISIS has stifled U.S. military leaders and betrayed the confidence of the America people and their allies. Rubio noted that the U.S. is “the most powerful nation in the world. We need to begin to act like it again.”

While America faces the greatest terrorist threat since 9/11, Obama went to a climate change conference in Paris. Yes, a conference on climate change; not a conference on the Syrian refugee crisis or the spread of ISIS. A recent WSJ poll found that only 37% of Americans approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy. If a democrat wins the White House, these foreign policy concerns will not be alleviated. Troublingly, Clinton’s plan is to keep course with Obama’s strategy in the Middle East. It is no mystery that this strategy, or lack thereof is to lead from behind, which is actually not leading at all.

The United States of America has the world’s strongest military, and a moral obligation to safeguard security and stability around the globe. This moral imperative extends to protecting Syrian refugees and fighting the most sophisticated terrorist threat the world has ever seen. While Trump is leading in national polls, his unequivocal lack of ability to provide sound leadership and rational policy proposals leaves space for other qualified candidates in the coming months. At this point, the Republican nomination is up for grabs, but my money is on anyone but Trump, the Joker in an otherwise pretty good deck.

Caitlin Miller is a strategic communications consultant based in Washington, D.C. She has worked for the International Institute for Strategic Studies - Middle East, and Republican members of Congress in both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Caitlin received her Juris Doctor with a concentration in International Law from the Duquesne University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Loyola Marymount University. You can follow her on Twitter here: @cait_elizabeth1

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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