Donald Trump's cabinet is beginning to take shape, and on Friday, he announced that ex-Fox News analyst KT McFarland will join his team as Deputy National Security Advisor. Prior to becoming a pundit, McFarland served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in New York. Given the massive instability facing the Middle East right now, many are wondering what McFarland will do about ISIS once Trump takes office.
It's difficult to say, because all we really have to go on are the public comments she's made about ISIS since the group began seizing territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014. In general, she's been critical of President Obama's attempts to combat ISIS and supportive of Trump's approach. This isn't very helpful, however, given that Trump has been pretty vague on what exactly he plans to do to fight ISIS, explaining that he'd like to retain "the element of surprise."
In an August interview, McFarland gave what may be the most detailed account of her preferred approach to taking down ISIS. Unfortunately, it wasn't all that detailed.
"What [Trump] has said, time and again, is do whatever you have to do. He's said things like, use the economic weapon, take away their oil wells, take away their ability to make war," McFarland told Fox Business. "What I like about that approach is, we've tried everything for 15 years, and nothing's worked. Radical Islam is in more places and greater strength than ever before, and if Trump keeps saying, do what you gotta do, do whatever it takes, that means to me, economic weapon, ideological weapon, religious weapon, and immigration. The military. The whole range of national security power, like we used to defeat the Communists and the Nazis."
This doesn't tell us much. The first three actions she cites — "use the economic weapon, take away their oil wells, take away their ability to make war" — are not policies. They are goals that anybody fighting ISIS would obviously like to accomplish, but they aren't plans for actually accomplishing them. McFarland also says that she wants to use the "ideological weapon" and the "religious weapon," but it's unclear what she means by this. To say that America should "do whatever it takes" to defeat ISIS isn't a strategy, either; it's simply a restatement of the idea that yes, America should be attempting to defeat ISIS.