Tom Reed

Ithaca, N.Y. — The two candidates for Congress in the Ithaca area released statements printed in the Gannett newspapers on Friday about America’s role in the conflict with ISIS.

Rep. Tom Reed (R) and challenger Martha Robertson (D) both wrote responses to the questions, “What should the US role be in the expanding conflict in Syria and Iraq? Would you support deploying US combat troops to that region?”

Tom Reed
Martha Robertson

Is there a major difference between the statements?

Though not directly contradicting the other, Robertson and Reed suggest different degrees of willingness to support “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS.

Robertson: “I do not think this conflict requires boots on the ground.”
Reed: “While putting American boots on the ground today is not something I support, we cannot take that possibility off the table in the future.”

Both oppose boots on the ground right now. The apparent difference is that Reed remains open to the possibility, whereas Robertson doesn’t say she thinks it should be an option.

However, Robertson’s response is qualified with “I think” — possibly leaving the door open to changing her mind.

What do they think of Obama’s actions?

Both Robertson and Reed express support for what President Barack Obama has done, albeit for different reasons.

Robertson: “I am pleased with the multilateral, international approach we have taken to dismantling ISIL.”
Reed: “I applaud the president for coming to Congress with plans to proactively protect our homeland with targeted airstrikes.”

Reed does not directly criticize the president. However, he says, “I want to see a more comprehensive strategy to clearly articulate the current scope of operations and pathway to victory.”

Robertson similarly does not directly criticize the president. She does call for “a balanced approach — not just attacking our enemies, but engaging in multilateral diplomacy and protecting human rights.

The SparkNotes version of Martha Robertson’s overall argument

Here’s a summary of each paragraph in Robertson’s statement:

1 — Americans are rightly wary of war but still need to respond to dangerous conflicts.
2 — Robertson likes that, as in Libya, America is using a broad coalition of allies to respond to the ISIS conflict.
3 — Although acknowledging that ISIS is “brutal and repressive,” Robertson says, “I do not think this conflict requires boots on the ground.”
4 — Robertson says Syria is a different issue. Robertson opposes American intervention in the Syrian civil war.
5 — Leaders prevent conflicts from happening in the first place.
6 — America should be wary of foreign interventions.
7 — America should do more to “make tragedies like the Syrian civil war less likely in the first place,” including work with NGOs and government programs.
8 — It’s America’s “right and responsibility” to build a better world.
9 — Striking a balance between fighting and diplomacy is important.

Read Roberton’s full statement here.

The SparkNotes version of Tom Reed’s overall argument

1 — Sept. 11 was frightening.
2 — Violent attacks from ISIS/ISIL are reminders of militant, violent jihad in the Middle East.
3 — The US must stand up to ISIL attacks on religious minorities.
4 — Rep. Reed applauds the president’s airstrikes against ISIS.
5 — Rep. Reed does not currently support boots on the ground, doesn’t believe that option should be taken off the table, and wants a “more comprehensive strategy to clearly articulate the current scope of operations and pathway to victory.”
6 — Terrorists “didn’t count on … the resilient spirit of the American people.” He called for unity between American political parties.

Reed Reed’s full statement here.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.