LAS VEGAS - There were calls to "carpet bomb" gathering places of Islamic State fighters and kill family members of suspected terrorists. There were proposals to arm Kurdish forces, shoot down a Russian jet if it was to intrude in a no-fly zone, and shut down the Internet in global hot spots. And there were suggestions of banning Muslims from entering the United States and monitoring activity inside mosques.
The debate this week crystallized the Republican Party's growing consensus around a strikingly hawkish response to the threat from Islamic State terrorists as the candidates vividly channeled the alarm and fear coursing through the GOP base.
"America is at war," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas declared in his opening statement. "Our enemy is not violent extremism. It is not some unnamed malevolent force. It is radical Islamic terrorists. . . . If I am elected president, we will hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS."
Using bellicose language at a moment of pitched voter anxiety, many of the candidates committed themselves to a confrontational set of policies that, while energizing conservative activists, could prove difficult to carry out internationally and poses the risk of a backlash from war-weary swing voters next fall.
Thomas H. Kean, a former New Jersey governor who chaired the 9/11 Commission, said the GOP candidates were probably reacting to the suddenly hawkish mood of the electorate that is showing up in polls.
But Kean warned: "You can get locked into some of these positions if you get elected. It all sounds fine now in a primary, but Republicans might be sorry at the end of the year if they're in the White House and the new president has to adjust to changing circumstances."
Pollster Geoff Garin, who advises a super PAC backing Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, said the GOP debate opens the door for Clinton to be "the strong and steady grown-up in the room."
The GOP hopefuls on the debate stage painted a dark and frightening portrait of the homeland's security, warning that the military is not equipped to wage war against terrorists and that no community is safe after recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
The problems the United States confronts around the world are far more complicated than the candidates portrayed them, however, with global consequences that would ripple from each proposed action. For example, arming the Kurds, which many candidates supported, would alienate Turkey, which is a key U.S. ally in the Syrian conflict and is opposed to creating a de facto Kurdish state.
Gov. Christie, who warned that every community is in danger following the carnage in San Bernardino, showed a willingness to engage in military confrontation with Russia.
Asked whether he would shoot down a Russian aircraft if it was to encroach in a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone over Syria, Christie said: "Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. . . . Yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling."