All-Star Panel: Weighing strategies to deal with ISIS threat


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will continue to hunt them down the same way we're doing with remnants of Al Qaeda in the Fatah or elements of al-Shabaab in Somalia, or terrorists who operate anywhere around the world. Have no doubt we will continue and I will continue to do what is necessary to protect the American people. And ISIL poses a real threat, and I'm encouraged by the fact that our friends and allies recognize that same threat.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: President Obama at the NATO summit wrapping up with a news conference, sounding a lot tougher on ISIS, a lot, perhaps, clearer on the strategy as it's developing, he says, to go after ISIS terrorists even inside Syria. His Secretary of State John Kerry telling reporters this, quote, "We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory that bolster the Iraqi security forces, others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own, obviously. I think that's a red line for everybody here. No boots on the ground." And there's the rest of it. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I think the major event that came out of the conference in Wales, the NATO summit in Wales had nothing to do with NATO. It had to do with the inside of Obama's head.  After three attempts, he finally was able to tell the world what his objective is, the destruction of ISIS, and that he's working on a plan.  I must say I'm not quite impressed with the announcement of a coalition which incidentally is nine other countries. Remember how Democrats ridiculed the Bush administration which had 28 -- 38 allies in the war in Iraq and called the Bush administration's attack on Iraqi unilateral. So, compared with what in Iraq, this is not exactly a glorious coalition -- excuse me. When I think of this I get all choked up.


KRAUTHAMMER: The important thing here is that Obama has a strategy. But when he talks about a coalition we need to know, what are these other countries going to do? He hasn't told us, and until he does that coalition is theoretical at best.

BAIER: Did he, though A.B. stem the looking into the parsing of his words on strategy and plan today?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Oh, yes. I think they did not want to clarify the previous two clarifications, and Charles is right, the third time was the charm. He was quite clear.

But now that he's really committed himself he can't have Secretary of State John Kerry saying there are no red lines. This is an unprecedented threat.  We are in for a long slog. He said we cannot contain, we must dismantle ISIL. And so when you are doing that, hoping, of course, that all these other countries are going to help you, that you can use counterterrorism measures, that it doesn't have to be called a war, that it can be holistic, but you actually really can't draw a red lines about where the battle is going to take you.

BAIER: You know, Steve, it was interesting he said, I think it was three times that we'll hunt them down the same way we hunted down the remnants of Al Qaeda in Fatah, in Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. There the U.S. has been using drone strikes for the past 10 years or so.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Right. Well, this has long been President Obama's obsession. It was his obsession even before he was a president. My colleague Tom Joscelyn at The Weekly Standard has an interesting article this week in which he goes back and recounts a story, a meeting between David Petraeus and then-senator Obama in the summer of 2008, and Petraeus is explaining, look, Al Qaeda and Iraq is a huge threat.  This is a problem. We have to take them out. And Obama says, and I'm paraphrasing here, basically, I'm not concerned about those guys. I'm not concerned about the part of Al Qaeda. I'm concerned about the part of Al Qaeda that attacked us directly and that is in the Fatah, that's in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that's been his motto all along. I think we've seen the decapitation efforts that the administration has undertaken there, while successful in a local way or in a regional way, have not actually done much to eradicate Al Qaeda and the broader threat that Al Qaeda presents.

BAIER: Meantime, you have Senator Rand Paul weighing in and trying to clarify something he said about Syria. Take a listen to this.


SEN. RAND PAUL, R - KY: I think that chaos breeds terrorism. So when you have a lack of order, you know, once we wiped out the order or the regime in Libya, we had chaos. It's the same in Syria. The policy of President Obama is to degrade Assad, but Assad is an opponent to radical Jihadism. So Radical Jihadism is now flourishing in Syria and ISIS really has grown stronger because we helped to create a safe haven for them, or President Obama did, rather.


BAIER: You know, about Syria, about, you know, he's been walking this line about going after ISIS. He says it must be destroyed, but working with Assad. It's pretty interesting.

KRAUTHAMMER: Looks, he walks this line, he makes no sense. The idea that the growth of ISIS is a result of the degrading of the strength of the regime in Damascus as done by the United States is preposterous. The criticism of Obama is that he hasn't done anything to make sure that Assad leaves. He can say he's got to leave. He has never lifted a finger. He hasn't armed the opposition. He hasn't really helped them in any way except rhetorically. The ones who have been in there are the Iranians, the Russians, and Hezbollah.

So, he always likes to say there's terrorism, ultimately the cause is the United States meddling, as if our meddling in Syria is the cause of the rise of ISIS. That is simply ridiculously wrong, and it's hard to take seriously somebody who can say something like that.

BAIER: Has this changed the dynamic for, not to turn this completely on politics, but for somebody like Rand Paul. You see Elizabeth Warren out, ISIS must be destroyed, Democrat after Democrat stepping up with statements it seems.

STODDARD: Right. You have seen there's been a move among Republicans who were long quiet to really get out there and try to lead the debate about how we need to fight this now with everything we've got. And after a period in which the Republican Party was very concerned it lost its foreign policy leg of the three-legged stool of the party, that everyone was turning into doves, this is sort of reassuring.

At the same time, I do believe that when the actual 2016 presidential contenders are seeking to separate themselves from each other, and we're actually in a long slog against ISIL or ISIS, or whatever we're going to call it, there will be some retreat again from -- we'll see distinctions between who is really going to be to the right, a hawk, more strong on defense and national security than Hillary Clinton, and who is going to start talking again about what we're going to take care of here at home. I think it's easy in September before Congress is back to talk a big game, but when it comes to votes and it comes to presidential debates next year, I think we're going to see a different tune.

BAIER: Interesting, Hillary Clinton has not spoken out about this at length or even really any statements. She was out with Harry Reid yesterday at a clean energy summit, saying climate change is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.

HAYES: If she said then she has in fact spoken out about this because she is saying this is by definition secondary. It's not secondary. This is the most urgent crisis that we face, so she's just wrong about that. I think those words will come back to haunt her.

On Rand Paul, the challenge that he faces is that in effect what we've seen from Barack Obama over the six years of his administration is a foreign policy a lot like Rand Paul has been proposing. Basically, the United States should stay out, it shouldn't rush in, we shouldn't do anything. We didn't do anything in Syria or anything significant in Syria, as Charles points out, and it, obviously, didn't produce a good outcome. So he's got to find a way to sort of walk away from that and sort of remake himself as, if not a hawk, just not the dove that he has been.

BAIER: Next up, the Friday Lightning Round.