By Zachary Toillion
On August 26th it was revealed that an American citizen died in combat fighting for the terrorist group ISIS. The 33 year old San Diego native, Douglas McCain was born Christian, converted to Islam and was radicalized in the United States before moving to Syria to join ISIS. McCain was not alone, state department sources believe up to 100 US citizens have been recruited by ISIS forces to fight for an Islamic caliphate.
ISIS has received world condemnation after the beheading of American Journalist James Foley, and holding hostage a second American journalist Steven Sotloff. A silver lining came when a third American journalist, Peter Curtis was freed from ISIS forces through a negotiation with the Qatari government. Shortly after these events, President Obama ordered surveillance flights over Syrian airspace to gain intelligence on ISIS. As tensions between the United States and the terrorist group ISIS escalate, several Tennessee lawmakers are weighing in on what to do next.
Sen. Bob Corker (R), who is up for re-election in 2018 and is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was the most vocal about ISIS. When asked whether he supported targeted airstrikes on ISIS in Syria he stated “I think there is a general agreement that an authorization has to take place. For the American people’s sake, Congress should weigh in.” Corker later characterized ISIS as “the most grotesque, demonic group of people that we’ve ever encountered”.
Sen. Lamar Alexander(R) condemned the beheading of American journalist James Foley and called on the Obama administration to “condemn and demonstrate that this type of intimidation and persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East will not be tolerated and will be met by the strongest appropriate response possible.”
Rep. Phil Roe (R) called on President Obama to “lead and outline a strategic, cohesive, and comprehensive plan for Iraq” while also stating “It is not in our best interest to engage in another long-term conflict, but something must be done.”
Rep. Steve Cohen (D) backs airstrikes in Syria, stating ISIS is “Dangerous to our security”, while also adding President Obama has “no reason to come to Congress” to authorize airstrikes in Syria under the War Powers Act.
The remaining members of the Tennessee congressional delegations have been largely silent on what actions should be taken in regards to ISIS. Most of Congress has remained silent on the topic, with less than 90 members of both congressional bodies putting out statements on the ISIS threat during the month of August.
Reports surfaced in mid-August that President Obama is currently weighing whether or not to conduct targeted airstrikes in Syria on ISIS targets. The secondary question is whether or not Obama will seek congressional approval. Constitutionally, Congress has the power to declare war, but the War Powers Act allows the President to send troops anywhere in the world for no longer than 60 days, as long as the President gives Congress a 48 hour notice.
On August 28th, President Obama conducted an unscheduled press conference to address the issue head on. When asked about airstrikes, President Obama seemed to throw cold water on the press reports, stating, “We don’t have a strategy yet. Folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than where we currently are”.
Obama hasn’t ruled out airstrikes entirely, but stated if strikes were to occur they would not be coordinated with the Assad regime, whom Obama condemned for genocide last year.