U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Fox News host Sean Hannity went back and forth Wednesday night arguing over the factors they felt were responsible for the rise of the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
Paul said the U.S. had helped facilitate the growth of jihadist groups like ISIS by leading or supporting the overthrow of dictators like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, a country he now called a “jihadist wonderland.”
Paul’s point made Hannity interrupt. Hannity suggested that, if President Barack Obama had kept a stable force of U.S. troops in Iraq, groups like ISIS wouldn’t have grown.
“What you’re saying is that we created this,” Hannity said. “I would argue that the war [in Iraq] was won, that the surge was effective, that we had an emerging democracy — albeit an imperfect one — and the only thing we needed to do was keep training forces on the ground.”
Hannity suggested Obama’s current actions were only needed due to a “vacuum” the president previously created.
“Which the president’s now doing, which would have prevented all these cities that Americans fought, died, and bled for from being taken over by ISIS. I believe the vacuum was created by President Obama’s policy.”
Paul said he didn’t disagree with Hannity’s point, but the senator pushed back slightly by saying the overriding conflict among various Islamic sects has been going on for at least 1,000 years.
“We didn’t create it, but we did allow a festering of chaos when we toppled the secular dictators,” Paul said. “Every time the secular dictator has failed, chaos has arisen, and radical Islam has become dominant. Radical Islam is our enemy in those countries, so we need to understand how we got here.”
Hannity proceeded to play a clip of President George W. Bush from 2007, in which he said pulling out of Iraq at that point would mean “surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaida” and “increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at a later date to confront an enemy even more dangerous.”
“Senator,” Hannity said, “could he have been more right?”
Paul wouldn’t concede that point, responding with a “question” of his own suggesting it was implausible for U.S. troops to stabilise every Middle East country in conflict.
“Well, I guess the question would be — we have the same situation in Libya,” Paul said. “Are there enough troops to take over and stabilise Libya? Are there enough troops to take over and stabilise Syria? And are there enough troops to take over and stabilise Iraq?”
Paul also said Wednesday that Obama was following an unconstitutional plan to “destroy” the extremist group by not requesting congressional authorization to use military force.
“It is unconstitutional what he’s doing,” Paul told Hannity after Obama laid out his strategy in a primetime speech Wednesday night.
“He should have come before a joint session of Congress, laid out his plan as he did tonight, and then called for an up-or-down vote.”
Nevertheless, Paul said he supported Obama’s plans for confronting ISIS. And more broadly, he said the U.S. should do “whatever it takes to take out ISIS.”
Here’s the full video of Paul’s appearance:
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