In a conference call Monday with reporters, U.S. Representative Tim Ryan [D-Howard] reflected on what he saw and learned while traveling through the Middle East recently, which included a stop in Iraq meeting with U.S. and Iraqi military commanders.
“ISIS is a global threat to all civilized nations,” Rep. Ryan said. “They want to kill Americans and Westerners.” Ryan pointed to shocking demonstrations in Paris, Brussels and San Bernadino on the real dangers confronting the United States, which has produced little in the way of violence and destruction compared to elsewhere around the world.
One of a small party of Americans who traveled to the Middle East region, Rep. Ryan said he “wanted to go to the front lines of this war and see exactly what we need to do to destroy them there before they come here.” One of the few remaining Democrats in Ohio’s 16-member congressional delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan told reporters ISIS is on the run in Iraq but cautioned that more is needed. “We must put together a global strategy that will include many nations, some of them Muslim, to destroy and defund their network,” he said, adding an important caveat: “This will not be easy, but America must lead the way because if this responsibility is left to others it simply will not get done.”
Ryan Cautious On Kasich
Ryan supports Hillary Rodham Clinton for president because, as he said, “You need somebody who knows what they hell they’re doing; the woman knows what she’s doing, she’s mature, has the experience and determination to be strong in this region.”
Asked if Ohio Gov. John Kasich fully comprehends the scope and responsibility an American president needs to conduct a global war on terror, Mr. Ryan gave Kasich higher marks than he gives to Donald Trump or Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “I would give Gov. Kasich an edge on Trump and Cruz, to be honest with you,” he said, noting that Kasich’s rhetoric is a lot more responsible than what he’s heard from Mr. Trump and Sen. Cruz. Ryan cautioned, though, that he hasn’t heard a lot from John Kasich on foreign policy and what he would do in that regard.
Congressman Ryan, 42 years old, has represented Ohio’s 13th congressional district since 2003 and has served in the minority party ever since Republicans won the majority in 2010, the same year John Kasich and a brood of other conservative governors rose to power with help from the summer of the Tea Party. Mr. Ryan said the United States has made great progress in the last few months, citing the reduction of about 40 percent in what territory ISIS once controlled. That’s good, he said, noting that ISIS was gaining recruits when they were winning, but will see reductions as would-be followers think twice about joining a losing cause.
Republicans across the board, including Gov. Kasich, has called the White House’s Iran nuclear deal a bad deal. Ryan disagrees, saying that while Iran is a major player and contributor to terrorists group, their power would be heightened even more if they had a nuclear weapon. Ryan said he’s convinced that the Iran deal is the right move now. “They are such a threat to the neighborhood, having them with a nuclear weapon would be an absolute disaster,” he said. “By taking a chance, I feel much more comfortable to engage them after giving them an opportunity to do the right things,” he said. Key to his reasoning is that young Iranians are very western, he said, noting that “people want to move in the direction of more moderate approach and deescalating with America is a good direction for them to take.
Ryan said he fellow travelers met with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, but even though the race for president is gearing up here, it didn’t come up in their talks with Netanyahu, who doesn’t like the deal President Obama struck with Iran. Congressman Ryan said he was very proud when he spoke with a dozen or more sailors with ties to Ohio who were stationed on-board the USS Harry Truman on assignment in the Persian Gulf.
Another concern for Rep. Ryan is countering the media reports against America with stories designed to win the “hearts and minds” of people in the region. Even though he believes Iraq forces are “starting to come on line and win battles,” a better job in communications is needed since Iran controls 40 or more TV stations that demonize in one way or another America. More and better social media campaigns are needed, he said, to help define the United States as a leader who wants to make the world safer. “We’re not getting the message out,” he said.
Back home, Ryan wants more funding for homeland security, he wants to beef up the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration, but sequestration of funds in Congress is making that hard to do, notwithstanding Republican attempts to undercut the White House at every turn. He said more American boots on the ground may not be the first answer, but he acknowledged that soldiers and military are getting “worn down.”
“I think Congress needs to step up and make the necessary investment into our homeland security apparatus and we need to do it soon,” he told reporters today. He faults sequestration—the plan to reduce government spending across the board undertaken by one of his former colleagues, Ohio Congressman John Boehner who retired last year after being House speaker since 2011—for doing “great damage to our security and military apparatus.” His concern is that thousands of terrorist now want to come to America, and more investments are needed now to “make that very, very difficult to happen.” That probably won’t be happenikng, he theorized, because Congress is saying everything the government does is bad, a mindset he called “recipe for disaster.”
“Congress needs to step up and invest, not give bumper sticker solutions,” Ryan said, chiding his colleagues in Washington to met their responsibility to act. “I hope some Republicans see what’s needed and are willing to make the decisions needed to make it happen.” Being a leader on the humanitarian front is also needed, he said, suggesting that more “safe havens” be made available closer to home so refugees from violence don’t have to cross over to Europe or into Greece. “Keep it contained and not far from their homes” was his advice.
Asked whether boots on the ground in the region from nearby countries is possible instead of more American soldiers on the ground, Rep. Ryan, who some think should run for governor of Ohio in 2018, was less certain about that possibility. “Everyone has to have skin in the game,” he said, but a civil war in Yemen takes away from the ability for Arab countries to get their skin in the game. His long-term solution is to continue to train Iraq soldiers to fight their own war.
Reflecting on his trip, Rep. Ryan came a way with a renewed sense of the respect the world has for American leadership even though they are not always in agreement with our efforts.