The brief moments of tonight's Republican presidential debate
which touched on foreign policy highlighted each of the four remaining candidates' willingness to engage in bloodthirsty triumphalist rhetoric, and the more specific they got, the more frightening the details became.
When asked how he would confront ISIS, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) repeated his oft-stated preference to put boots on the ground in (count 'em!) Iraq, Syria, and Libya, but that it would only be a "specific number of American special operators" (though he never offered a specific number). Rubio added that the brunt of the force against ISIS would have to be made up of Sunni Arabs and "an increase" in airstrikes, presumably launched by US forces.
Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) took a moment to brag about his 18 years in Congress serving on the Defense Committee before saying it was a mistake on the part of Hillary Clinton to "work aggressively to depose Moammar Gadhafi," but now that the shit has hit the proverbial fan, Kasich too supports troops in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
For some reason, the moderators never put the same question to Donald Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz, instead pivoting toward Trump's previous declarations that he will target the families of suspected terrorists with airstrikes and also deploy "interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding."
When moderator Bret Baier noted that several high-ranking military and intelligence officials said they believed the rank-and-file military would refuse to commit war crimes, per their training to refuse illegal orders, Trump replied, "They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. Believe me."
Trump then took a moment to insult Ted Cruz for "having a hard time with that question" at a previous debate (it should be noted that at the debate in question, Cruz said he supported waterboarding in certain circumstances, but apparently not vociferously enough to impress Trump).
Defending his call to kill the families of terrorists, Trump made a veiled reference to Saudi Arabia and flat-out lied in depicting the 9/11 hijackers as family men:
Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center, and his family gets sent back to where they were going—and I think most of you know where they went—and, by the way, it wasn't Iraq—but they went back to a certain territory, they knew what was happening. The wife knew exactly what was happening.
They left two days early, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went, and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane. All right?
For his part, Cruz said gave a fairly stock answer short on specifics:
We will rebuild this military so that it remains the mightiest fighting force on the face of the planet. And then, when I am commander-in-chief, every militant on the face of the Earth will understand that if they go and join ISIS, if they wage jihad against the United States of America, they are signing their death warrant.
Anybody miss Rand Paul's squishy non-interventionism yet?