President Obama's G20 Speech Has The American Public Split About Boots On The Ground
Hours after the terrorist attack in Paris on Friday evening, President Obama expressed support for France but made it clear Monday at the G20 Summit in Turkey that such support will not come in the form of American boots on the ground in Syria. His initial address on Friday as well as President Obama's G20 speech on anti-terrorism tactics garnered an array of reactions from the American people. Near the end of his address to Paris, Obama related France's atrocities with those of the United States, presumably the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This is a heartbreaking situation. And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it's like. We've gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.
The implications of this statement host the roots of divergence among public opinion. On the same night, Hollande addressed his French nation and explicitly called the terrorist attacks an "act of war." In the days following the attacks, the U.S. assisted France in carrying out airstrikes in Syria, ISIS's stronghold, but has yet to directly put American lives on the line. In the second half of his first term in office, Obama managed to bring troops home and end the Iraq war — a goal he had highlighted in his campaign for the presidency.
Needless to say, the president is not particularly eager to put boots back on the ground anytime soon, and he made certain to deliver this sentiment in Turkey. At the G20 Summit, he defended his refusal to send troops back to the region.
It is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers that that would be a mistake ... because we would see a repetition of what we've seen before, which is if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface, unless we're prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.
On one end, those who are more conservative believe that military force is the foremost way to combat the terrorist group and keep the nation safe, especially after ISIS threatened in a video that Washington D.C. is next. Obama's refusal to commit to such force is perceived as weak and insufficient in the renewed fight against terrorism. Others have also focused on the fact that he did not mention ISIS, and are relating that to his previous address to Paris after the attack on Charlie Hebdo, when he did not comment on the value of free speech.
On the other end, people do not criticize Obama for his not mentioning Islam, because it would be a gross generalization of a religion that mostly does not approve of ISIS's militant extremism. They maintain that Obama is right in hesitating to put boots on the ground and believe his speech was more than sufficient in delivering the United States' support for France.
It might be too early to declare a specific path of action — what matters is that we stand united.