Obama’s address on national security garners mixed responses

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whitehouse.gov (Public Domain)

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office on Dec. 6 about the threat of ISIL. “It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently,” Obama said. “That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.”

Mari Knudson, Cover Story Editor

President Obama addressed an increasingly anxious nation on Dec. 6 from the Oval Office, presenting no new strategy for defeating ISIL but rather urging citizens not to give into fear. The speech came after 14 people were shot and killed in San Bernardino, Calif. on Dec. 2 in an act of terrorism inspired but not directed by the Islamic State.

Obama advocated combating ISIL through the use of “air strikes, special forces, and working with local forces”, and refraining from getting involved in another ground war in Iraq or Syria.

“That’s what groups like ISIL want,” Obama said. “They also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops and draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.”

Obama also argued Americans from turning against the Muslim population, reminding them that ISIL is an extremist ideology, and not representative of the entire Islamic faith.

“It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently,” Obama said. “That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.”

Republican presidential candidates were quick to criticize Obama’s speech. According to Florida senator Marco Rubio’s remarks on Fox News, “people are scared not just because of these attacks but because of a growing sense that we have a president that’s completely overwhelmed by them.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was also underwhelmed by Obama’s speech, tweeting, “Is that all there is? We need a new President – FAST!”

 

Many St. Paul Academy and Summit School students watched Obama’s speech and had their own take on it. Junior Kathryn Schmechel believes that the speech was well-spoken and helped to calm the public down.

I thought the strongest part of his speech was the end where he spoke of not being unnecessarily afraid – a vital principle we must uphold, particularly in light of some politicians’ remarks.”

— junior Kathryn Schemechel

“My overall impression of his speech was that it was powerful – I appreciated how he emphasized that fear is not the answer to the problem, but working with communities and stopping the issue is what is necessary and important,” Schmechel said.

However, Schmechel agrees that the plan Obama put forward during his speech did not contain much new content.

“In the aftermath, some people saw the weakest part as his lack of new strategy introduced, but I think he did a nice job of re-framing his strategy,” Schmechel said.

While many politicians believe radical action is necessary to combat the threat of terrorism, Schmechel appreciates the fact that Obama has not been swept up in the panic of the nation.

“I thought the strongest part of his speech was the end where he spoke of not being unnecessarily afraid – a vital principle we must uphold, particularly in light of some politicians’ remarks,” Schmechel said.