DES MOINES — Republicans wooing Iowa's most active party members called for a stronger presence in the world at a Saturday dinner but ran the gamut in tone and on how tough to get with America's enemies.
On Armed Services Day — and a day the Obama administration reported killing a senior Islamic State leader in Syria — most of the nearly dozen presidential prospects at a state GOP dinner called for a more confrontational stance toward Iran.
Former senator Rick Santorum's answer for handling Iran, one of four countries on the US list of nations accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism, was to ''load up our bombers and bomb them back to the seventh century.''
Earlier in the day, former Florida governor Jeb Bush praised US commandos who had reportedly killed the Islamic State leader, who was described as the head of oil operations for the militant group. Bush gave no credit to Obama, whom he accused of allowing the rise of the militant group by pulling back US forces from Iraq.
''It's a great day, but it's not a strategy,'' Bush said in Iowa.
Although Bush joked lightly about the confused statements he made in recent days about whether he would have ordered the attack in Iraq in 2003, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told the GOP gathering Saturday night that it was a ''valid question'' to ask presidential candidates whether they would have invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein.
''We have to question: Is Iraq more stable or less stable since Hussein is gone?'' asked Paul, who espouses some of the hands-off foreign policy of his father, former Texas representative Ron Paul.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tried to reject any assertion that the existing problems in Iraq were the result of the Republican president who ordered that country's invasion, Bush's brother George W. Bush.
''The person I blame is Barack Obama, not George W. Bush,'' said Graham, who criticized Obama for keeping a campaign promise to withdraw combat troops from Iraq. Of George W. Bush, Graham said, ''He made the best decision he could.''
Former Texas governor Rick Perry, as did others, accused Obama of not taking the threat of Islamic State militants seriously. Perry pointed to claims by the militant group, disputed by terrorism experts, that it was behind the assault on a Texas cartoon contest that featured images of the Prophet Mohammed.
''You see ISIS showing up in Garland, Texas,'' Perry said, referring to an acronym of the group. ''You realize this is a challenging world we live in.''
Aside from the nuances on Republican policy toward Iran and militants in Iraq, the GOP presidential prospects were united in taking jabs at Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. They linked Clinton to Obama and mocked her for not fielding more questions during her campaign events.
Former business executive Carly Fiorina said that if Clinton is going to run for president, ''she is going to have to answer some questions.'' Paul joked about whether Clinton ''ever takes any questions.'' Earlier in the day Bush said he had taken between 800 and 900 questions, compared to a handful by Clinton.