All-Star Panel: Obama's air-only fight against ISIS working?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 9, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

REP. BUCK MCKEON, R - CA:  If you are going to fight a war, the one that is in it to win is usually the one that wins. The one that just talks and acts around the peripheral and then goes on to something else, we have got men and women there engaged, and the commander in chief is not engaged. 


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR:  Well, as you look at the situation with ISIS, the focus is on one town along the border with Turkey in Syria, Kobani.  We are told, Greg Palkot right there along the border, that there is street-to-street, block- by-block combat going on there, machine guns, bomb blasts. Cent Com is saying the Kurds control much of the city, but there is anecdotal evidence on the ground that ISIS controls a lot of it. There you can see ISIS control on a map in Syria and Iraq. 

And you heard from the lieutenant general here on the program earlier, Judge, about not getting these heavy weapons or equipment to the Kurds. And it seems mind boggling this far in that that hasn't happened. 

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: You know, I can't get into the president's brain, but it does appear as though his heart is not in this and he's punching with his left hand and apologizing to the gallery with his right for throwing too many left hooks. He should ask the Congress for a declaration of war. If he's going to fight a war, he should fight it full-fledged in a decisive and massive way and win it or he should not fight the war at all. 

At present, the war is illegal. He has no authority to be there.  He himself has said the authorization to use military force in 2002 and the other one in 2003 doesn't apply. He knows he can't win this in 180 days, and so the War Powers Resolution doesn't apply.  Why he hasn't gone to Congress, why he's doing this in a half-baked way, I don't know, unless he just wants to soften his critics.  But he's exasperating the situation. 

BAIER:  Ron, Turkey said has they are not going to go in with ground troops alone.  They may reevaluate, but right now they are not doing that. It doesn't seem like the air strikes are pushing back ISIS a bunch. 

RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I agree with everything the judge said except for the idea that our first approach should be overwhelming force. I actually don't think we should be moving first with ground troops.  I also don't think, as I've written, that the president should have taken that off the table publicly. 

I would like to think, there's a very good possibility that with really deft diplomacy, with really intensive airstrikes, and by bringing in people like Turkey, by actually arming the Kurds, that we might be able to avoid a full-fledged war.  But the problem is the president hasn't done that. We have gotten this far and we don't even have an agreement from the Turks that they're going to fight. 


BAIER:  He gives a speech and says we are going to train and equip the Kurds. 

FOURNIER: We're not.

BAIER: They are the boots on the ground. 
FOURNIER:  So what I'm afraid is going to happen is, because we are not -- again, he's not executing on his promise, we may be in a position where we are going to have to put U.S. troops on the ground.  I would have liked to have seen how this would have turned out if he implemented an effective plan. But, again, he's not able to manage or lead us through an effective plan. 

BAIER:  And five percent of the Peshmerga have helmets. 

FOURNIER:  That's unconscionable.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Earlier, you had a General Barbero on here.  And he said, look, this is just simply not an air campaign.  And it's not.  If you compare it with what we did in the Balkans, if you compare it with what we did in Afghanistan to get rid of the Taliban, it is a fraction of a fraction of what we did. So it's not an air campaign. It is something slightly more than a PR campaign. 
But I subscribe to the Hume-Goldberg-Krauthammer thesis that this is essentially a political operation. It is a way to say we are doing something to take the heat off him through the midterms to make it seem as if he is doing what he needs to do as commander in chief when, in fact, it is essentially a glorified light show at this point. 
And you saw, you know, the spokesman from the Pentagon saying that air power cannot save Kobani.  And yet we are not doing anything about that fact, except that we intensified a little bit more bombing today. We are going to lose Kobani.  And I think that this is not a strategically seriously thing at all. This is a politically driven thing that Obama has basically admitted if we had not seen those beheadings, we would not be doing any of this anyway. As if those beheadings were the strategic crux of anything. That was a horrible thing. But either ISIS is a threat to our national security or it's not. Whether two Americans were beheaded or not shouldn't effect whether this makes sense to us in terms of our vital national interest, and I just don't think he has that kind of calculation. 

I think he's responsive and reactionary to political events and to media pressure. 

BAIER:  Must be the chair. 

BAIER:  Judge? 

NAPOLITANO:  I know exactly what you mean by that. I share the views of my brother Goldberg, because you cannot wage this war in order to avenge those two beheadings. It is not the job of the president of the United States to protect Americans wherever they go. It's his job to keep us free and it's his job to keep us safe. I don't think that ISIS without a Navy and without an air force threatens our freedom or our safety. If it does, he should tell us how and why he came to that conclusion. 

FOURNIER:  It's interesting.  We disagree on how we should go about doing this. I really think we can do it without U.S. ground troops on the floor. We should at least give it a try. 

What we do agree on is what the president is doing has been feckless and totally irresponsible. 

BAIER:  That is it for the panel.  But stay tuned to see what some of your favorite
cartoon characters may be up to these days.

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