Ted Cruz is fond of saying America should "carpet bomb" ISIS — the New York Times, in a recent editorial, called him "Ted 'Carpet Bomb' Cruz" because it's his "favorite" line. So on Tuesday night, Wolf Blitzer asked him what he meant. Cruz's answer did not make very much sense:
What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective. In the first Persian Gulf War we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 37 days. Saturation bombing after which our troops went in and mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army. Right now Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. We need to use overwhelming air power and we need to be arming the Kurds and we need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.
To be clear — this is totally incoherent. The term "carpet bombing" means mass unguided bombing in populated areas; that is not what happened in the Gulf War. Moreover, in the Gulf War the United States was fighting an actual military as opposed to a terrorist group pretending to be a government. ISIS has adapted to the US military campaign in a way that forces us to limit strikes if we don't want significant civilian casualties.
Blitzer, to his credit, followed up on this point. He asked Cruz whether he would — as his "carpet bombing" phrase implied — support mass bombing of ISIS-held cities. Cruz just couldn't answer the question:
BLITZER: To be clear, senator Cruz, would you carpet bomb Raqqa, where there are a lot of civilians? Yes or no.
CRUZ: You would carpet bomb where ISIS is. The location of the troops. You use air power directed. But the object isn't to level a city, the object is to kill the ISIS terrorists. To make it, listen, ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they're winning. And president Obama fuels that perception.
Basically, he's saying "we should bomb ISIS troops" which 1) isn't what carpet bombing is and 2) is what Obama is already doing. There's a legitimate argument among experts as to whether the Obama administration should loosen the rules of engagement governing whether to strike if there's a risk of civilian casualties. But Cruz isn't engaging in that debate; he's just calling for "carpet bombing" and bombing "the ISIS terrorists." It's pure tough-guy positioning.
Oh, and as for the idea that "ISIS is winning?" It's totally wrong.