At the Republican presidential debate Saturday night, ABC News moderator Martha Raddatz confronted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over his previously stated plan to “carpet bomb” the terrorist group ISIS into “oblivion.”
Raddatz asked Cruz how saturation bombing, or “carpet bombing,” could work against an unconventional terrorist army that hides among the civilian population.
Cruz didn’t answer the question directly at first and pivoted to attack President Barack Obama.
“It starts with a commander in chief that sets the objective,” Cruz said. “And the objective has to be utterly and completely destroying ISIS. Obama hasn’t started with that objective, and everything else flows from there.”
He then said that the US has the tools to destroy ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh).
“The first tool is overwhelming air power,” Cruz said. “It is one of the blessings of the United States of America having the greatest military on the face of the earth is we have the ability to use that air power.”
But by “overwhelming air power,” Cruz doesn’t mean that he wants the US to indiscriminately bomb, he said.
“That is targeted at oil facilities. It’s targeted at the oil tankers. It’s targeted at command-and-control locations, It’s targeted at infrastructure, it’s targeted at communications, it’s targeted at bombing all of the roads and bridges going in and out of Raqqa,” Cruz said, referring to ISIS’ de-facto capital.
Raddatz then asked if Cruz wanted to loosen the rules of engagement for the US military in the Middle East.
“I was just over in a command center in Erbil and they said they thought the rules of engagement worked because you have so many civilians in those populated areas,” Raddatz said, referring to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. “They don’t want to hit civilians.”
Cruz suggested that despite the civilian concerns, he did want to loosen the rules of engagement.
“What we are doing to our sons and daughters, it is immoral,” Cruz said. “We are sending them in to fight with their arms tied behind their back. They cannot defend themselves, and it is wrong.”
He continued: “America has always been reluctant to use military force. It’s the last step we take. But if and when we use it, and when it comes to defeating ISIS, we should use it. We should use overwhelming force, kill the enemy, and then get the heck out. Don’t engage in nation building, but instead allow their soldiers to do their jobs instead of risking their lives with politicians making it impossible to accomplish the objective.”
Raddatz clarified Cruz’s stance, asking if that meant he wanted to loosen the rules of engagement.
“Absolutely, yes,” Cruz responded.
Military experts have criticised Cruz’s ISIS-bombing strategy, noting that while bombing is effective against traditional armies that move in the open, it doesn’t work against fighters who embed in civilian populations.
“Carpet bombing only works with armies out in the open, but those days are kind of gone now. They’re not doing that anymore,” Michael Pregent, a former US Army intelligence officer and adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider in December.
“With Russia starting to increase airstrikes and with our bombing campaign in Iraq,” he added, “you see ISIS melt into the population to ensure that if they’re bombed there will be collateral damage.”
NOW WATCH: A Harvard Law professor explains why he thinks Ted Cruz is ineligible to run for president
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.