Mitt Romney called on U.S. leaders to "wage a war" against the Islamic State group in the wake of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. In an opinion piece, he blasted the Obama administration for failing to stem the spread of radical fighters and called for deploying "boots on the ground" in Islamic State strongholds.
The op-ed, published Sunday in the Washington Post, arrives as Republican Party strategists are talking anew about drafting Romney to the 2016 presidential race. Romney, who lost the 2012 election to President Barack Obama and quit the 2008 GOP primary race, has insisted he won't run a third time.
Romney's piece echoed what other Republican candidates and pundits have said since the Friday attacks that killed 129 people in Paris. The former Massachusetts governor called for severely restricting the flows of migrants from Middle Eastern countries, especially the "thousands upon thousands of single young men" leaving Syria and Iraq. He called for a "comprehensive strategy" to fight the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and deemed the Obama administration's campaign of airstrikes over ISIS territories ineffective.
"We must wage the war to defeat the enemy, not merely to harass it," Romney said in the op-ed. He added, "Only America can lead this war, and that leadership means being willing to devote whatever resources are required to win -- even boots on the ground."
Romney took a more tempered tone in describing the ISIS fighter's ideology, at least compared to some of his GOP peers. "Islam is not the enemy, but the enemy lives within Islam," he wrote. "These heinous acts of terror are waged by radical Islamists: jihadists. And the Islamic State represents the branch of this ideology that currently poses the greatest threat."
Other messages across the conservative U.S. media landscape were less nuanced. "Islam is a religion of violence," wrote RedState founder, conservative radio host and blogger Erick Erickson. "I love the 'They’re not real Muslims' tweets," Erickson later wrote. "YES. THEY. ARE." The Federalist, a right-wing blog, urged leaders to, "Stop pretending terrorism has nothing to do with Islam," cried the right-wing blog the Federalist.
Reports that GOP strategists are pining for a Romney rerun surfaced last week before the Paris attacks. Less than three months before the Iowa presidential caucuses, Republican elites are feeling growing anxiety about the dominance of candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson, neither of whom has previously held office, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Associates of Romney said that while the former candidate is receiving a lot of "in bound" calls, there are "no signs" Romney has changed his mind about dodging the race, CNN reported Saturday. Romney himself rejected the idea during an Oct. 18 interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "I can't imagine running right now and I’m glad I'm not in the race," he said.
Romney's op-ed Sunday also mirrored the tone many Republicans have adopted since the Paris attacks, setting an ominous mood and using foreboding language that envisions America as a vulnerable fortress against evil, the New York Times reported Saturday. At campaign events last weekend, Republican presidential candidates warned that the terrorist assaults in the French capital could breathe new life into threats against the U.S.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged Americans to recognize that "an organized effort to destroy Western civilization" is underway. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas warned, "ISIS plans to bring these acts of terror to America."
Democratic candidates, by contrast, described a brighter version of America: a resilient nation determined to tackle terrorism in collaboration with other nations, the Times reported. At the Democratic debate Saturday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the fight against ISIS "cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential."