Here's How Obama Will Fight ISIS & Terrorism, As Outlined In His Rare Oval Office Speech
In the third Oval Office address of his presidency, President Obama outlined four steps in the fight against terrorism and, more specifically, ISIS. In general, this was more of a summary of the U.S.'s existing counterterrorism policies than an overhaul or change of course. Still, it's useful, or at least interesting, to hear how the president himself breaks down and categorizes these policies. Here are the four steps to destroying ISIS, according to Obama.
1. Continue to "hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary." This includes the ongoing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, which Obama specifically mentioned; the president may also have been referring to U.S. drone strikes in countries across the Middle East, though he did not explicitly reference this.
2. Continue to "provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraq and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground, so that we take away [terrorists'] safe havens." Obama also mentioned the U.S. special operations forces that have already been deployed to both Syria and Iraq to help "accelerate that offensive," and added that America has "stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and will continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground."
3. Cooperate internationally with "friends and allies to stop ISIL's operations, to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters." Obama said that the U.S. has "surged intelligence-sharing with our European allies" since the Paris attacks, noting specifically that "we're working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria," and made specific reference to American cooperation with "Muslim-majority countries, and with our Muslim communities here at home, to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL promotes online."
4. Somehow resolve the Syrian civil war. "With American leadership," Obama noted, "the international community has begun to establish a process and timeline to pursue ceasefires and political resolution to the Syrian war." He said that "doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country — including our allies, but also countries like Russia — to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL, a group that threatens us all."
Again, there wasn't much new in this speech; in fact, that the first two steps that Obama listed began with an explanation of what the U.S. "will continue to" do. He might as well have used that phrase for the next two steps as well. Cooperating with allies, step number three, is the default strategy for any country (that's why they're called "allies"), while step four — negotiating an end to the Syrian civil war — is something the U.S. has been trying, unsuccessfully, to do for the last four years. That's not to say that these policies are good or bad — but they certainly aren't new.