Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) reinforced his rhetoric about “carpet bombing” ISIS during the Fox News Republican debate Thursday night.
When asked about his previous statements advocating carpet bombing ISIS “into oblivion,” Cruz said that he would “apologise to nobody for the vigorousness with which” he would fight terrorism and destroy the terrorist group, which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh.
“You claim it is tough talk to discuss carpet bombing,” Cruz said. “It is not tough talk. It is a different fundamental military strategy than what we’ve seen from Barack Obama.”
Cruz continued to hammer Obama over his military strategy.
“Barack Obama right now, No. 1, over seven years, has dramatically degraded our military,” he said.
He then invoked the Persian Gulf War, using it as justification of his strategy of increased air attacks:
Just two weeks ago was the 25th anniversary of the first Persian Gulf War. When that war began, we had 8,000 planes. Today we have about 4,000. When that war began, we had 529 ships, today we have 272. You want to know what carpet-bombing is? It’s what we did in the first Persian Gulf War: 1,100 air attacks a day, saturation bombing that utterly destroyed the enemy. Right now Barack Obama is launching about 15 and 30 air attacks a day. He’s not arming the Kurds. We need to define the enemy, we need to rebuild the military, to defeat the enemy, and we need to be focused and lift the rules of engagement so we’re not sending our fighting men and women into combat with their arms tied behind their backs.
This isn’t the first time Cruz has compared his strategy to the tactics used in the Persian Gulf War. He made similar comments in December, and The Washington Post noted that many of the air attacks from that war weren’t quite carpet bombing, but rather precision attacks. Carpet bombing is generally considered large-scale, unguided bombing.
Cruz’s ISIS strategy has been criticised by military experts who say that carpet bombing is not only ineffective, but also counterproductive and dangerous.
Christopher Harmer, a former US Navy officer and currently a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider in December that “you have to be deliberately ignorant of the nature of ISIS … [and] of the limits of air power to advocate carpet bombing.”
Harmer pointed out that carpet bombing “really doesn’t do anything except hit a bunch of civilians and maybe a few ISIS fighters” and “only applies when you’re trying to level entire cities or destroy civilian populations.”
Harmer also said that carpet-bombing in Iraq and Syria could actually end up helping ISIS. If American bombs kill innocent civilians, ISIS could use it to lure in new recruits, because it would play into their narrative that the West is at war with Muslims in general rather than ISIS specifically.
Cruz has previously defended his statements about carpet bombing by saying that he would use the strategy on ISIS positions rather than the cities ISIS occupies in Iraq and Syria. But since ISIS integrates with the civilians populations it controls, it’s difficult to establish enemy positions that aren’t surrounded by civilians.