Boehner: U.S. is just "poking [ISIS] in the nose"

Although he said he tries to support President Obama on foreign policy, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio didn't hold back on criticism of the president's strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

"These are barbarians. And we're over there kind of poking them in the nose. We're not really there to defeat and destroy," Boehner said.

He said the U.S. needs "a robust strategy" to take on the group and that lawmakers should give the president an even broader authorization for military force than he requested last month.

The White House submitted a proposal to Congress in February for legislation that would authorize the president to fight ISIS for three years with no restriction on where U.S. forces can go. It bans "enduring offensive combat operations," an ambiguous term that seeks to bridge the differences between Democrats who fear another prolonged ground war in the Middle East and Republicans who have urged the administration to do whatever it takes to destroy the group.

"I go out of my way to try to be supportive of the president's foreign policy, when I think he's right. When it comes to the issue of ISIS, the president said that he wants to destroy and eliminate ISIS. That's what he said. That's what the goal is," Boehner said. "But then he outlines a strategy that nobody believes will accomplish the mission."

Boehner said the president asked for a more limited authorization for military force than he had under 2001 and 2002 legislation authorizing military force to fight al Qaeda and carry out the Iraq War, which is serving as the current basis for military action against ISIS.

"I don't see how he can resolve these differences. We need a robust strategy to take on these terrorists," Boehner said, adding that he believes Congress should give the president "a robust authorization to use the authority of the commander in chief to eliminate this threat." As to what that strategy should be, Boehner said, "somebody's boots have to be on the ground" but he would not get into specifics as to whether that means putting U.S. troops into combat in Iraq and Syria, or bringing in more troops from U.S. coalition partners.

"I'll let the military commanders make that decision. The Congress shouldn't do it. But the president shouldn't tell our enemies what we're not going to do," he said.

Few politicians in the U.S. have said America should send combat troops to the region, and some believe that Arab partners in the U.S.-led coalition should be contributing ground troops. In a separate interview, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, said, "we don't leave anything off the table."

"If there are going to be boots, they have to be more than just U.S. boots. And it's got to be some boots that come from the Saudis, the Jordanians, and others," he said.

He also said the U.S. should be arming Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers who are fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq, and to raise the costs of doing battle with ISIS by "[bombing] the daylights" out of any ISIS target that is located.

"We make it very, very tenuous for anybody to want to join ISIS. Because we need to let them know, they're basically signing onto a death sentence, if they want to join this hideous, savage, uncivilized group of people who think it's okay to burn people alive and cut their heads off," Huckabee said.

The U.S. and Western nations have struggled to track and stem the flow of citizens traveling to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. These so-called "foreign fighters" are especially dangerous because their passports give them far easier access to the U.S. and much of Europe. Last week, a British militant dubbed "Jihadi John" who appeared in a video released in August showing the slaying of American journalist James Foley was identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a London man with a college degree.

"What it tells us is that there are many young people, and you can see this by the number of tweets on Twitter, who are so disaffected, even youngsters that have parents that have done quite well in this country, which is somewhat surprising," California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a separate interview on "Face the Nation." "Whether they feel rejected socially, whether they feel they don't have an opportunity, whether they feel this country is anti-Muslim, which it is not, I don't know. But it's clearly created a major problem."

She couldn't offer any more details on Emwazi, but said, "he's a target. There should be no question about that."

Feinstein also said that she was particularly disturbed to hear that young girls are traveling to join the group because they are told they will have a home and resources to buy what they need with ISIS.

"This is very distressing," she said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.