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McCain, Graham urge American boots on the ground against ISIS

McCain, Graham urge American boots on the ground against ISIS
© Greg Nash

Defense hawks in Congress say it's time for American boots on the ground against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), following a wave of terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people.  

"I think we have to have a strategy and that entails American boots on the ground along with a coalition force," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." 

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McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who is a Republican presidential candidate, said the U.S. and Middle Eastern allies should form a ground force to defeat the terrorist group. 

"They have large armies. Let's use their armies in a smart way and integrate our forces within a regional army and get the French involved, any NATO nation that would like to help," said Graham, who appeared with McCain. 

"They're not the JV team, but they're certainly not 10 feet tall. The worst possible solution is half-measures. If we just drop a few bombs on these guys and that's it, they'll be stronger than ever," said Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee and retired Air Force colonel. 

McCain and Graham and other hawkish Republicans have long been critics of President Obama's strategy against ISIS, calling it nonexistent and ineffective. 

However, on Saturday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined Republicans in saying the U.S. needed to do more. 

"It has become clear that limited air strikes and support for Iraqi forces and the Syrian opposition are not sufficient to protect our country and our allies," she said in a statement.

Graham said the Paris attacks present a "real opportunity to rally the world." 

Meanwhile, at a press conference in Turkey on Monday, President Obama said putting boots on the ground "would be a mistake." 

“It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers that that would be a mistake,” Obama said at a Group of 20 summit meeting. 

The administration announced last month it was authorizing fewer than 50 U.S. special operations forces to go into northern Syria to advise Syrian opposition fighters against ISIS, but said they would not have a combat role or mission.  

Graham called that move a half-measure.

"At the end of the day, when you put 50 boots on the ground you're telling ISIL you're not really serious as an American president to degrade and destroy them," he said, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.  

"There is no substitute for a ground component in this war," he said. "The region would supply the bulk of the forces, we'd have to be part of it.

"At the end of the day we can destroy ISIL and must destroy ISIL and the average American gets it. I want to fight them in their backyard so we don't fight them in our backyard. Those are your two choices," Graham added.