Debate over calls for a new strategy to fight ISIS

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were obviously a terrible and sickening setback.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, R-OKLA.: We're facing very real threats as a nation, and this is not a setback. This is an ongoing strategy from ISIS. This is what they've done in Libya. This is what they've done in Afghanistan. This is what they've done in Egypt. This is what they've done in numerous villages in Syria and Iraq. They mean to hold territory and they mean to continue to expand this out.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Let's bring in our panel today, syndicated columnist George Will, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. The president today, his performance in Turkey, and the evolution of this story, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought it was an astonishing performance. Aside from all the things he said that are sort of literally unbelievable -- the strategy is working. The whole world knows that's not true. That that he said on Friday that ISIS is not growing in strength. Of course it is. Even Dianne Feinstein said, we are not winning this. In fact, they are expanding --

BAIER: Let me interrupt you. I want to play that Feinstein sound bite because we didn't play it earlier. This is Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Intel Committee.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF.: I've never been more concerned. I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained. ISIL is expanding. It just put out a video saying it is their intent to attack this country. They are on a march, and it's important to recognize this and prepare to deal with it with action.


BAIER: OK. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: So you've got all of that, but what struck me above all was not the misstatement of facts and the delusions about what's going on. It's the president's tone. There was this lassitude, passivity, annoyance. He was irritable. You guys are asking me again if the strategy is working? As if it's so obvious that it is.

But what was the most amazing to me is the fact that the tone was flat and detached. You could say this is Obama the cool? No. Because he does manage to rouse passion, and he did at the end of the press conference when he was asked about allowing in the refugees. That's where he showed passion. You could see the anger. And who is he angry against? Republicans, who suggest, quote, "slamming the door on refugees" when their reasons are quite good. So that to me was the most striking.

He said, of course, in his usual condescension, what the critics want is for me to be bellicose. No one is asking for bellicosity of him. All they're asking of him for some sign of passion or commitment, urgency. The French have said this is an act of war and he calls it a setback.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, THE HILL: I disagree so strongly. It seems to me we've had a strategy here. We've been bombing. We've had 40,000 sorties since '14. We put together an international coalition. We've got Special Forces now on the ground. We're trying to get negotiations together in Syria.

And then you have people saying -- and I think they are in search of bellicose rhetoric, because I think that's what I feel in my heart, is you would like the leader of the free world to demonstrate some anger at the people who perpetrated this horrific act in Paris. The question is, given the history of this region, do we really think that simply sending in some additional forces now is suddenly going to change the dynamic? I don't think so.

BAIER: What about the list of things Devon Nunes talked about, supporting Kurds with heavy weapons material, supporting Jordan, intelligence sharing, all these things that have not happened, he says --

WILLIAMS: There is no question they haven't happened. But I'm saying if you want to have a discussion about arming the Kurds and where those arms may end up, go talk to the Russians about what happened with their arms and what happened to them in Afghanistan. So you have to understand, this is a double-edged sword. But it's worth a discussion if you're looking for alternatives.

The key here is if Republicans are serious, gee, don't Republicans control the House and the Senate? I don't see them saying we're going to have a debate and a vote on authorization for the use of military force. Never.

BAIER: George.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Congressman Nunes also said something interesting. He talked about NATO going in big. I don't know what he meant by that.

BAIER: Well, calling Article 5, that France would say to NATO, Article 5 will be invoked, in other words, you attack one, you attack us all.

WILL: But the day is past and the French, whose call it is to say this is an Article 5 offense or not, haven't said it. So it's not clear that we have anything other than, to use the president's words, intensification. Now, we know what that means. It means more air power.
And we know what that means. Air power is never going to take back cities and air power is never going to occupy land, and air power is dazzling and makes good pictures, but it doesn't win wars. It just doesn't. Men on the ground with rifles win wars.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I can assure you that seven sorties a day is not going to win a war. We had 1,100 sorties a day in the Gulf War, we had 350 a day over Kosovo when we hit Serbia which wasn't even an international interest, and it won that war. Seven a day is what we are flying. Juan, it's not 40,000 sorties. It's 8,000, less than half for Syria. You do the math, you have seven a day. And of them, three out of every four do the sortie and come back without dropping a bomb because the rules of engagement are so strict that if there is a single civilian in the area, you have to come back. That is a joke. That doesn't amount to anything.
Everybody knows that. This is all a demonstration and show.

And it is not impossible if the French are willing, if other NATO allies are willing, to have a force that is led by and includes the Turks where you come in from the north. It's only about 80 miles to Raqqa. And Obama said, well, let's say I send the ground troops, 50,000, he pulled a number out of a hat. There would be a lot less Americans. What do I do now, occupy perpetually? Of course not. What you do is join with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey, all Sunnis, three of them Arab are the ones who would stay and occupy, not the United States. There is an answer. He just doesn't want to look at it.

BAIER: All right, last thing, Juan, what about to Charles' point where the president talked about climate change and cyber talks for about a minute-plus before he got to France, and he was most engaged on the refugee issue and kind of talking about Republicans and their position as opposed to the actual attack in Paris. Is that a fair criticism?

WILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely. I think it's fair to say that at this moment when all of us feel so taken aback and shocked at the events in Paris, you want a leader who somehow communicates I understand the heart of the American people on this. He didn't do that today. But it's not to say that somehow he's lacking in determination to take on ISIS or -- it comes back to Charles again. I don't see where Republicans are willing to take a vote and say, yes, we want to send in troops and we want to authorize this president to do whatever it takes to get ISIS right now.

BAIER: Fair point.

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