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Dick Cheney: Bold ISIS strategy would contradict Obama's record

The former vice president laid out his hopes and expectations for the plan President Obama will unveil Wednesday to defeat the Islamic militant group
Dick Cheney: Bold ISIS strategy would contradict Obama’s record 03:04

Beginning with the "grave, strategic threat" posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the United States must promptly move to get back on offense in the war on terror, former Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday, hours before President Obama is slated to make primetime remarks outlining his plan for combating the militant group.

Arguing that such terrorist organizations and hostile leaders abroad have seized on the president's foreign policy record of "hasty withdrawals, continuous disengagement and self-congratulation for all of it," Cheney in his address at the American Enterprise Institute called on Mr. Obama to lay out "a forceful, bold and immediate strategy to defeat ISIS" that includes military action. But such a strategy, he added, "would mark an abrupt and dramatic departure from the record thus far."

President Obama to outline strategy to combat ISIS in televised speech 02:40

Last month, the president authorized targeted airstrikes against the militants as they swept toward northern Iraq, where American military, diplomats and civilians are stationed.The U.S. military now plans on gradually expanding its air campaign against ISIS, CBS News Pentagon correspondent David Martin reports, not only in Iraq but also Syria once targets are identified.

There will also be an increase in the number of American military personnel on the ground in Iraq, though the size of the increase is not clear. However, Mr. Obama has outright rejected putting U.S. combat troops on the ground to fight ISIS, saying it would be a "profound mistake."

Though he didn't specifically call for combat troops, Cheney made the case that the United States must engage aggressively in order to defeat ISIS, which has captured territory in Iraq and Syria and in recent weeks beheaded two American journalists as a warning to the U.S. against interventionism.

"ISIS does not recognize a border between Syria and Iraq, so neither should we," he said. "We should immediately hit them in their sanctuaries, staging areas, command centers, and lines of communication wherever we find them. We should provide significantly increased numbers of military trainers, special operations forces, an intelligence architecture, and air power to aid the Iraqi military and the Kurdish Peshmerga in their counteroffensive against ISIS."

Dick Cheney: Obama “willfully blind” to sustaining Bush-Cheney apparatus 02:18

On a broader scale, Cheney - a key architect of the Iraq War as then-President George W. Bush's right-hand man - panned Mr. Obama as something of a hypocrite for "pointing to the Bush-Cheney security apparatus as evidence that he's keeping America safe." He cited the president's remarks at a fundraiser last month during which he credited post-9/11 security measures for making Americans "in the here and now, pretty safe."

"Nice to hear," Cheney quipped to chuckles from the audience, "especially from someone who used to speak so disparagingly about the steps we took after 9/11." The problem, he went on, is that "President Obama seems willfully blind to one of the key facts about the post-9/11 security apparatus: It is not self-sustaining. Those programs and policies must be kept strong and current."

Going forward, Cheney said no progress can be made to curb the rapid rise of ISIS unless the president relinquishes his oft-repeated mantra that "the tide of war is receding."

"Those words suited his purpose at the time, in 2012," he said. "And yet of course that was the very time when dangers now obvious to all were gathering. In fact, all that receded from Iraq and elsewhere was American power, influence, and leadership. And if you think that American withdrawal marks an ebbing of conflict and a return to peace, then consider the new jihadist caliphate and all that will now be needed to clear it out."

According to reports, Cheney's remarks echoed those he made during a closed-door meeting Tuesday with House Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, took to the floor Wednesday morning to caution the GOP against repeating "past mistakes."

Harry Reid to GOP: "Be careful" about Iraq advice from Dick Cheney 02:56

"Taking advice on foreign policy from Dick Cheney? That's a terrifying prospect," Reid said. "Dick Cheney is more responsible than anyone else for the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country: the invasion of Iraq."

Reid emphasized repeatedly that he backs the president's decision to OK strategic air and drone strikes, calling them "the most effective way to take out ISIS without committing troops, American troops, in harm's way." He said he's "amazed" that some members of Congress are gunning to "rush to war."

"Now that the Republicans are taking advice from Dick Cheney on foreign policy, I'm concerned that they once again will rush to commit U.S. troops to a ground war in the Middle East," Reid said. "How did that work out for us last time? Not so well. The Bush-Cheney strategy of rushing into conflict doesn't work. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. Let's be cautious. Let's be deliberate.

"...The president knows how to destroy terrorists and their organization; Osama bin Laden is proof of that," he went on. "So, let's give the president of the United States time to do this the right way."

Rather than "declaring war today," Reid said the president is gradually building a coalition of allies in the international community with similar interests in conquering ISIS, because "going it alone is not going to work." Cheney, though, contended that after "five and a half years of an administration sending regular messages of retreat, withdrawal and indifference," the U.S. has "lost all credibility and the trust of allies we need."

Mr. Obama's speech, at 9 p.m. EDT, comes less than two weeks after he said "we don't have a strategy yet" for how to approach ISIS. Though he wouldn't preview specifics of the president's plan, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday it will be "similar to some of the other counterterrorism missions that the president has ordered and have been successfully executed by the United States military and with the support and in conjunction with our allies around the world."

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