President Obama expects Republicans to disagree with him, but now he is facing dissension from his own Democratic Party when it comes to how to deal with terrorist group ISIS. Even after the terror attack in Paris, France carried out by ISIS, President Barack Obama is holding firm and is refusing to send troops to fight the growing and powerful terrorist organization. Obama made this declaration during a press conference at the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. Democrats however, are not standing by the president’s course of action; both Democrats and Republicans are calling on the president to pursue a stronger course of action. Obama has downplayed the terrorist group’s threat, which is coming back to haunt the president who is feeling the lame duck curse and is more worried about his legacy than the immediate task of leading.
Speaking at the G20 Summit to reporters, President Obama said, “It’s important for us to get the strategy right, and the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.” Obama has been adamant throughout his presidency that he was not going to start wars and he is sticking to that philosophy refusing to send troops to fight ISIS in Syria. The president also affirmed, “We are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution.”
Obama has promised since his first presidential campaign in 2008 to end American involvement in wars in the Middle East. The president prefers US airstrikes with loyal nationals fighting on the ground than direct US military involvement, which he said would be a “mistake.” Obama reiterated that strategy at his press conference “On the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely.”
President Obama defended his strategy in a solo press conference, which disappointed many CNN observed. After the Nov. 13 Paris attacks proved his plans for ISIS is not working, Obama remained unwavering. CNN analyzed, “It was one of the seminal moments of a presidency that has lurched from crisis to crisis, as under political siege, and before the eyes of the world, Obama stood alone on stage and made a case for a policy to combat a virulent new threat that few politicians and experts outside his administration believe is working.”
Just a day before the terrorist attack Obama boasted in an ABC News interview that aired on Thursday, Nov. 12, that US contained ISIS. Obama proudly expressed, “We have contained them. I don’t think they’re gaining strength.” In the immediate aftermath Obama’s administration had to go on go on defensive and in damage control mode. White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes defended and attempted to clarify Obama’s position in appearance Sunday, Nov. 15 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Rhodes said, “The president was referring very specifically to the question of ISIL’s geographic expansion in Iraq and Syria.”
The position is obviously not popular with Republicans, who have been calling for a more aggressive approach to dealing with ISIS from the start. All the Republican presidential candidates are countering the president criticizing him warning him the US could see another 9/11, and advising the only solution is a military one. Democrats however, are bucking the president as well. The position from Senate Democrats and his former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton just show how election year battles and Obama’s lame duck status are shaping positions on dealing with the ISIS terrorist threat.
Former Secretary of State Clinton sharply broke with the president during the second Democratic presidential debate hosted by CBS News on Saturday evening, Nov. 14, and held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton directly attacked Obama’s contained remark, saying, “It cannot be contained. It must be defeated. This cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.” While Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and its former chairman is also criticizing the president. Feinstein appearing on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” on Monday, Nov. 16 sternly said, “I read the intelligence faithfully. ISIL is not contained, ISIL is expanding. They just put out a video saying it is their intent to attack this country.”
On Friday evening, Oct. 13 in Paris over 130 were killed, and over 300 wounded and hospitalized, and less than 100 in critical condition after six coordinated attacks in the French capital, ISIS has taken responsibility. The attack was the worse France has seen since World War II. The attack is part of string at recent attacks by ISIS, including an attack on Thursday, Nov. 12 in Beirut, Lebanon killing 42 people, bombing a Russian plane traveling over Egypt killing all 224 on board, and killing 128 in a rally in G20 host country Ankara, Turkey. Now they are directly threatening the US releasing a video on Monday, Nov. 16 when an ISIS representative warned, “You will be unable to stop us because today we are much stronger than before.”
President Obama came off cold in his press conference avoiding the consoler in chief role that has marked so many presidencies and bolstered the country’s morale during terrible tragedies and threats. Obama’s immediate predecessors mastered the task successfully. President George H. Bush rallied Americans and the United Nations coalition in 1990 and 1991 when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. President Bill Clinton saved his presidency consoling the nation in 1994 after the homegrown terrorism of the Oklahoma City bombing.
President George W. Bush whose was not known for his oratory like Obama united the country after the 9/11 in 2001 the worst terrorist attack in America history. Bush made sure Al Qaida paid even though it was his presidency’s downfall. Many believed Bush went too far by invading Iraq. The prolonged wars in Afghanistan against the Taliban and in Iraq tarnished the name War on Terror so much so that Obama refused to acknowledge it until recently with ISIS. Obama however, diminished America’s role as a world leader by aiming to be a peace president that it resulted in the rise of ISIS threatening the world’s safety as well as America’s. Obama condemned ISIS calling them the “face of evil” and a “barbaric terrorist organization,” but he refused to acknowledge a war with Islamic extremism, despite the fact that it is not racist as there are threats with extremism in each religion and each is different.
President Obama seemed to show little real compassion for France remaining more on the defensive for his presidential legacy during his press conference. One reporter asked “Mr. President, are your policies a disaster?” Defending his legacy and his presidential decision making was the overriding theme of the press conference. Obama tried to reassure “We have a comprehensive strategy, using all the elements of our power: military, intelligence, economic, development and the strength of our communities.” President Obama sounded like a cold detached professor in an ivory tower rather the leader of the most powerful nation when he expressed, “the terrible events in Paris were obviously a terrible and sickening setback… Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.”
Although Obama noted that the US is waving flags at half-mast, it is as about empty as countries displaying the colors of France’s flags on their landmarks, and social media unity, which all show just how superficial the Obama era has become. Gone are real displays of patriotism, compassion, and shows of real unity. In the past American leadership meant being the greatest power and defender on the world stage as it has been that way since President Franklin D. Roosevelt and World War II.
Instead, the US is retreating into a new isolationist stage putting the country back to the reluctant warrior mindset that shaped President Woodrow Wilson’s entry into World War I and Roosevelt’s in World War II. Both times the presidents kept America out of war until the US was directly threatened and hit. President Obama is buying his time as a lame duck president overly confident that America does not have to lead because it was not directly hit by ISIS’ wave of terrorism. Obama has more to lose waiting than going on the offensive because waiting as history has shown has tragic consequences. Obama need to step up, lead and try to prevent any more unnecessary tragedies rather than worry about his legacy, he should just leave that to the historians and be the leader the country and world needs.