"No boots on the ground under any circumstances," said Lambert, an active-duty colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. "It is time for Iraq to govern itself and solve its own problems. We have spent far too much precious blood and treasure in that country already."
Lawrence, an Air Force veteran, said that he wouldn't favor deployment at this time and that the focus instead should be on forcing coalition members in the region to do more to secure the situation. Garcia said the U.S. must be involved in stabilizing Iraq and should continue to use airstrikes while cooperating with allies to engage the militants.
"Deploying U.S. troops back into this region is not a course of action anyone wants to take, but many U.S. military experts and advisers that have been attuned to this region warn that it may be necessary," she said.
Garcia said Obama embarrassed himself and the United States in January when he spoke of the Islamic State, saying, "The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant."
"The president should have acknowledged, far earlier than he did, that (the Islamic State) was a dangerous force that needed to be addressed instead of brushing it off with sarcasm," she said.
All three candidates agreed that the U.S. should have foreseen the rise of the militants and faulted Obama for lack of leadership.
"Do not draw meaningless lines in the sand," Lawrence said. "Do not broadcast your next move to your enemy complete with a calendar for withdrawal. Arm your friends in the region. Maintain a strong defense posture that prevents issues rather than doing cleanup later."
Lambert said Obama has failed to clearly define U.S. national security interests or protect American interests abroad.