MANATEE -- As President Barack Obama prepares to travel to Tampa on Tuesday for a briefing at MacDill U.S. Air Force Base, Manatee County Democrats back his plan to obliterate the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL.
"I support the president's strategy," said Terri Wonder, a Democrat running for Manatee County commissioner-at-large in November.
Wonder said Sunday she has not been asked to join Obama in Tampa for the briefing on ISIL despite her unique qualifications. Wonder wrote a doctoral thesis while a student at the University of South Florida on Islamic movements and extremism and was deployed to Iraq as a civilian counter-terrorism adviser for the U.S. Army for nine months from 2008-09.
"These strategies should have been adopted long ago but the Iraqis would not let us do it," Wonder said. "Now things have reached crisis proportions."
After arriving in Tampa, the president will remain overnight on his way to U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base for a Wednesday briefing, according to White House officials, followed by a statement to the press.
Wonder said she supports the president's decision to attack through the air and believes a drone program to be the instrument of choice.
"It's a border issue," Wonder said. "We have to staunch the flow of foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq. We have to track them and I favor the drone program for this. If we can use drones to track them and find them and kill them, then this is what needs to be done."
Lucy Lapides, president of the Lakewood Ranch Democratic Club and a member of the Manatee County Democratic Executive Committee, said she was struck by how difficult Obama's job is when she heard his speech where he said the United States would first degrade, then destroy ISIL.
"I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions," Lapides said Sunday. "It's a very complex issue. I hope it is successful. I, personally, would not like to see any boots on the ground.
"I certainly can imagine there is plenty of political action that happens behind the scenes we don't know about," Lapides added.
Bill McGrath, president of the Anna Maria Island Democratic Club, said the president has a difficult task in the "tangled web" of Mideast politics.
"I think it's a work in process," McGrath said of the president's ISIL plan. "There was a general plan laid out and some specifics are clearly waiting to be developed. The most important thing, to use a Bush phrase, is how many of the coalition of the willing will there be? The Middle East is a tangled web, an incredible mess. I can't second-guess what he is doing. As a general concept I can support the idea. But the devil is in the details."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.