The Pentagon on Wednesday criticized proposals to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that it says would fuel the terrorist group's recruitment abilities.
“It's clear from ISIL's strategy that their objective is to cause us to engage in what they believe is an apocalyptic war with the West,” said Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. “And anything that we do to feed that particular frame of thinking counters our national security, and we have to be very careful about how we prosecute a campaign that appears to be an indiscriminate attempt to attack ISIL and the population that surrounds it.”
Selva was responding to Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Ex-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights MORE’s (D-Mo.) criticism during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing of presidential candidate Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE’s (R-Texas) suggestion to “carpet bomb” ISIS.
“We will carpet bomb them into oblivion,” Cruz said last weekend in Iowa. “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.”
McCaskill slammed Cruz’s comments, saying that actually carpet bombing Iraq or Syria would kill numerous innocent women and children, prompting some to side with ISIS.
“If we did an indiscriminate carpet bombing of a major area and killed thousands of women and children, would you assume that would have some impact on their ability to recruit misguided barbarians like this couple that took out more than a dozen innocent people last week?” she said, referring to the couple suspected of carrying out last week's shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. “I would have to assume it would put their recruiting on steroids.”
Selva avoided answering directly, saying the military’s campaign strives to avoid collateral damage.
“I'm going to avoid anything hypothetical,” he said. “What I would say, categorically, is the process you described as your hypothetical question is not the way that we apply force in combat. It isn't now, nor will it ever be.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, meanwhile, said the whole government is working to counter ISIS’s recruiting efforts, particularly in social media. He told senators that he met on Tuesday with the directors the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to discuss that issue.
The Pentagon's focus, he said, is “eliminating the parent tumor” of ISIS’s physical territory to stop them from “metastasizing” and radicalizing others around the world. But, Carter conceded, the Internet complicates the fight.
“In the Internet age and in the social media age, terrorism doesn’t have any geographic bounds,” Carter said. “I think that while we need to attack it on the ground in Syria and Iraq — that is necessary — it’s not sufficient.”