This is one of a series of posts recapping the Hall County GOP debate between the candidates for the 9th congressional district seat held by Rep. Doug Collins. Collins faces primary challenges from former 10th district congressman Paul Broun, retired educator Roger Fitzpatrick, retired National Guard General Bernie Fontaine, and Lanier Tea Party Patriots founder Mike Scupin. This post covers the national security portion of the debate. You can see the post on the taxes and economy portion of the debate here, and questions dealing with budgeting, Planned Parenthood, and water resources here.
The first question asked what the candidates thought about American involvement in foreign conflicts and would they have supported President Obama’s request for an Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria?
Roger Fitzpatrick says that the United States should be an influence in the world without being entangled in the affairs of other nations. “Is the blood of our finest,” he asked, “worth less than the blood of those who live in the other countries?” An AUMF by the U.S. implies that Americans will commit to fighting another nation’s war, and he will not support one for Syria. When asked how to defeat ISIS, Kirkpatrick said that a combination of training the Syrians and ensuring that the U.S. borders are secure, so that anyone with ill intentions cannot enter and cause damage.
Dr. Broun stated that America should never go to war unless Congress declares it; something he says hasn’t been done since World War II. Broun claimed that we could have accomplished the goals set by President Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan solely through the use of Special Forces. He wouldn’t support an AUMF for Syria. When asked how he would defeat ISIS, Broun said the United States should give the Kurds the resources they need to win on their own. Broun also said that currently there is no way to know the backgrounds of the Syrian refugees. Claiming that ISIS has said they will send 3,000 of their fighters into the U.S, Broun said that more resources should be devoted to preventing them from entering.
Mike Scupin said he wasn’t sure why the U.S. is involved at all. And as a result would not support a new AUMF. He claimed that Congress funded ISIS rebels in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government. “We have no business messing in Syria’s business,” Scupin said. “They have done nothing to us, and we have no business being there.” To defeat ISIS, Mr. Scupin said that the situation resembled the Vietnam War. He said that unlike most wars, ISIS is not a country, and it is important for Congress to understand that its goal was to establish a worldwide caliphate, and the steps to defeat them begin with this understanding.
Congressman Collins framed the debate as similar to the debate American had before World War II. He asked if America wanted to be an isolationist country, or whether America should use its influence as well as its might to take care a group which has the ultimate goal of destroying us. He said that the current AUMF should be cancelled, and a new one put in place that would let American forces work with other groups, such as the Kurds, to defeat ISIS. Rep. Collins pointed out that ISIS is spreading to Iraq and other locations, with a goal of coming to America. As a result, he said, there’s a need for Special Forces and troops on the ground. However, he said, ISIS is dispersed in small groups, so carpet bombing or other massive efforts are improper tactics. While acknowledging the need to defeat ISIS, he said that America must deal with the Middle East as a whole, including Iran, Jordan and Israel.
Mr. Fontaine, who served as a Brigadier General in the National Guard, said that the war on terror and especially the situation with ISIS needed to be taken more seriously. “If we’re going to go to war, we have to go all out.” He blamed some of the hesitation to go to war on the Commanders in Chief who may not listen to his military advisors. He cited General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the coalition forces in the first Gulf War, as the last general to have the authority to prosecute a war properly. To defeat ISIS, Fontaine suggested letting the military do its job without micromanaging the situation. “Think about George Patton, and how long it would take him,” Fontaine said. “If he needed 30 days and had the resources and it would be done.”
Given that both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have endorsed keeping Muslims from entering the United States, the candidates were asked what they would do. Mr. Fontaine said he would support refugee camps in Turkey, but insisted that refugees should be properly vetted before entering the U.S. He would ban the entry of refugees based on their religion and their country of origin.
Congressman Collins agreed that all those crossing the U.S. borders have to be vetted and their backgrounds examined, which is more than what their religion is and where they come from. “Simply to say we’re going to ban all Muslims simply because they are Muslims is not the answer,” Collins said. “We need a better system that will vet anybody that comes into this country.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick pointed out that there is historical precedent for blocking ethnic groups from entering the U.S. He wants to stop the flow of Muslim refugees until the country can determine a method to accurately identify terrorists. He said, “The government’s primary job is to protect the sovereignty of this nation and the citizens that live within the borders.”
Saying that an understanding of Sharia Law and the motivations behind Muslims and the Islamists, Mr. Scupin said that proper vetting of refugees is almost impossible. Saying that the purpose of the Muslim religion is politics, he would not admit them into the country. Dr. Broun went further, saying that a total pause is needed for every form of immigration. Securing the borders is a national security issue, he said, and added that Congress needs to fix the problem with illegal immigrants as well.
The final national security question of the morning dealt with another proposal supported by Donald Trump: building a wall between the U.S. and Mexican border. Mr. Fitzpatrick said the key would be to build a security perimeter that could include walls, fencing, camera monitors, or other methods. Rather than having the Mexicans pay for the wall, he said the project would be paid for with federal money.
Rep. Collins pointed out that national security involves more than protecting the southern border. Inland enforcement provides the ability to find people who are already in the United States illegally and deport them. Pointing out that there is already budgeted money to continue to build a wall, he said that other methods, including surveillance and an increased presence of the border patrol should be used as well.
Mr. Fontaine agreed that the wall should be built, and the bill for its construction should be sent to Donald Trump. On a more serious note, he said that stricter laws are needed to identify and punish employers of illegal immigrants. Citing the mobilization of the country following our entry into World War II, Mr. Scupin said the country should be able to use “Yankee ingenuity” to protect the border; however there is no national will to do it. His solution is to replace those in Congress with those with the will to address the problem.
Claiming that the country can’t wait to build a wall, Dr. Broun said that the country should bring troops back from where they are stationed across the world and have them patrol the both the northern and southern borders. Broun said that the provisions of the 1986 immigration bill signed by President Reagan have not been followed, and that if he is elected, he will make sure that law is enforced.