Battling criticism of underestimating the Islamic State and not doing enough to destroy it, US President Barack Obama chose a rare Oval office address on Sunday night to calm a jittery nation.
“We will overcome it,” Obama said in only his third such address in seven years in office. “We will destroy ISIL (another name for IS) and any other organisation that tries to harm us.”
He told American people that the US has a strategy to destroy the terrorist outfit, and it was working. There was no need for ‘tough talk”, he said in a nod towards his critics.
There was also no need to send more troops into the region and “we cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam”. The speech, which contained no new announcements, was meant to reassure a nation chilled by the killing of 14 people by Pakistani-origin Syed Farook and his wife Tafsheen Malik.
His critics, mostly on the right, have been attacking him for underestimating the threat from IS, which he once called a junior varsity team — a school team of juniors. The president then claimed in an interview just a day before the Paris carnage that IS had been contained, which it had been but that context was lost in the outrage that followed.
Some of his former officials — such as secretary of state Hillary Clinton and defense secretary Leon Panetta have openly sought greater American involvement in recent weeks. But the president remains unconvinced of the need for it. He has ordered incremental increases in forces — 50 Special Operations personnel earlier and another 200 recently — as part of a strategy based on airstrikes and helping local forces. The US strategy has four basic elements: kill and destroy IS leaders and assets in airstrikes and by special operations, train and equip local forces, work with an international coalition and pursue a political end to the Syrian conflict.
The strategy, the president said, reminding everyone, “won’t require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil”. Response to the speech was harsh and critical along predictable lines, specially from his critics on the right, including those running for the White House.
“Is that all there is? We need a new President - FAST!” Republican frontrunner Donal Trump said in a tweet, urging the president to the use the more familiar acronym ISIL, not ISIS.