In the 3rd oval office speech of his presidency, President Obama spoke to the nation Sunday night about fears of terrorism at home and abroad.
Obama opened the speech by addressing the San Bernardino shooting, saying that all of the victims, regardless of race or other factors, were “part of the American family.”
The shooting in San Bernardino, California killed 14. It occurred at a holiday party at the shooter’s workplace.
The President then gave updates on the investigation into the incident, announcing that while the FBI were still working on it, it is clear that the perpetrators had turned to radical Islam, (although they had not been directed by any terrorism group). This was, Obama says, an “act of terrorism.”
Beginning with the 9/11 attacks, Obama addressed the evolution of terrorism. The internet, he says, has had an enormous impact of the terrorism movement and that it allows ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) terrorists to “poison the minds” of those online. While increasing defense mechanisms from the FBI and other organizations stop many large terrorism plots, Obama says that terrorists are turning to “less complicated tactics,” such as the mass shootings seen as of late.
The President said that he has “no greater responsibility” than to maintain the safety of the American people. He said he understands the country’s fear.
However, President Obama reassured viewers, saying:
“I want you to know: the threat to terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL.”
With many wondering what the next steps will be in the fight against terrorism, Obama specified four strategies to be implemented.
First, the American military will hunt down terrorists in any country.
Second, Obama mentioned the effectiveness of his air strike program, saying that these strikes will be continued by the US with help from the UK. Iraqi and Syrian forces will also be armed and Special Operations forces will be deployed to defend against invasion by ISIL in these areas.
Third, the US will be working with allies, such as Turkey and France, to bring down ISIL.
Finally, with American leadership, the world will begin to establish a way to end the Syrian war, in turn destroying ISIL.
Obama also called on the DOS (Department of Security) and HS (Homeland Security) to review the K-1 “fiancée-visa” , which Malik used to travel from Saudi Arabia to the U.S. This, he says, will make it harder for terrorists to “escape from justice,” if they entered the U.S. through this method.
Obama also mentioned methods to combat terrorism at home, primarily through more gun control legislation. President Obama also expressed his desire for more restricted screening, background checks, and other gun control methods.
“Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies cannot identify every mass shooter,” he said. “We must make it harder for them to kill.”
The President also called out Congress to say that if they are indeed “at war with ISIL,” they must vote to use military force against the terrorist organization.
President Obama also made clear what would not be done under his presidency.
“We should not be drawn into a long and costly ground war,” he said. If we occupy foreign lands, says Obama, groups like ISIL can maintain themselves for years through killing American soldiers and recruiting new members.
If anything in this speech was clear, it is that Obama refuses to “fight and die for another decade on foreign soil.”
We also cannot turn against one another, said the President. He claims a war is what ISIL wants.
Calling ISIL a “cult of death,” Obama condemned those who stereotype Muslims and mentioned that those extremists account for a “tiny fraction of 1 billion Muslims worldwide.”
Instead, he says we must enlist Muslim communities as our “strongest allies,” and that these communities must confront the terrorist groups “without excuse.”
Religious discrimination was the closing topic of the Sunday night speech.
“It is responsibility of all Americans to not discriminate,” said President Obama.
Finally, Obama urged the country to remember that Muslims citizens are “friends and neighbors….men and women in uniform, that all Americans are equal in the eyes of God, and equal in the eyes of the law.”
The President ended the speech by placing confidence in the American public.
“I am confident we will succeed in this mission because we are on the right side of history,” said Obama before signing off. “Freedom is more powerful than fear.”