In a speech to the nation, Barack Obama called on citizens to not place Muslims under general suspicion — and ruled out a deployment of ground troops against the Islamic State.
He did not appease his critics, who accuse him of timidity, with the speech. However, as he stepped up to the podium in the White House on Sunday evening at primetime to address the nation, Barack Obama already knew that he wouldn’t. The U.S. president’s message was rather a request to the American people to have patience and to trust him: “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.” This success will not materialize through strong words, however, but instead only when the U.S. has acted strongly and smartly. The threat from terrorists is real, “but we will overcome it,” said Obama, who stands under tremendous domestic political pressure since the bloodbath in San Bernardino.
After the massacre, with 14 people falling victim in the middle of last week, Republican presidential candidates have demanded an intensification of the fight against the terrorist militias of the so-called “Islamic State.” The land [the U.S.] needs a militant president, who on the one hand would proceed more firmly against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, and on the other would protect the country better against terrorists who plan attacks themselves in the U.S.
The bloodbath in California took place a few days after a public declaration by Obama, according to which there was “no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot ” against the U.S. The shooters from San Bernardino were an American of Pakistani origin and his wife, who praised the Islamic State group in a Facebook post. While so far U.S. investigators do not believe that the Islamic State group ordered the shooting in California, Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik were, however, clearly inspired by the jihadis. The terrorist militia Islamic State group spoke of both assassins as “soldiers.”
National Security Has Top Priority
However, in spite of all demands, in his speech, Obama did not present himself as a militant president like George W. Bush. He did say that the danger of terrorism is real and has entered a new phase, but the president rejected the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria, as expected. For him, the top priority is the security of the nation; however, he will not allow the U.S. to become entangled in another “long and costly ground war.” That was a clear allusion to his predecessor Bush, who reacted to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Instead of this, Obama repeated his administration’s already familiar strategy against the Islamic State group. This includes airstrikes against the positions of the terrorist militia in Iraq and Syria, training fighters in war zones, attempting to dry up the financial resources of the Islamic State group, and finally striving to end to the civil war in Syria. Obama explicitly praised the decisions of Germany and the United Kingdom to take part in the airstrikes against Islamic State group positions.
Stricter visa regulations should prevent future potential terrorists like the female assassin from San Bernardino from entering the U.S. In this case, the Obama administration may hardly face resistance from the opposition. Things look otherwise for Obama’s wish to strengthen the lax gun laws in the country in order to at least make access to semi-automatic assault weapons more difficult. The Republican presidential hopefuls have so far rejected every intensification of the gun laws. In order to underline this stance, some candidates campaigned at shooting ranges in the days after the massacre in California.
Address from the Center of Power
Obama’s appeal not to place Muslims in the U.S. under general suspicion may also largely die away unheard. After the bloodbath in San Bernardino, some presidential candidates on the Republican side repeated their demands to monitor Muslims in the U.S. more closely and/or only to allow refugees of Christian faith into the country.
Obama, by contrast, appealed to Americans for unity. There is no war between America and Islam. “ISIL does not speak for Islam,” said the president. The Islamic State group is made up of killers who cultivate a death cult. Whoever is now suspicious of all Muslims across the board in the U.S. plays right into the hands of these criminals, said Obama.
The speech to the nation was first publicly announced on Saturday. The choice of location was also surprising. Only for the third time in his almost seven-year term Obama spoke from the Oval Office, the center of power in Washington. Until now, he had only done this following the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and to announce the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Obama did not even announce the killing of al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden from the Oval Office.
The fact that he uses his office as the location of the speech now is due to two reasons: Addresses from the center of power have a special weightiness according to U.S. readings, and the rest of the White House is currently full of Christmas decorations.