President Obama on IS

[Content Note: Terrorism.]

Earlier today, President Obama held a press conference on IS while attending the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. Below is a compilation clip from that press conference, in which he details what the US strategy will be in response to ongoing attacks:

ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I've said many times, is to degrade and ultimately to destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power: Military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. We have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks, and there will be successes.

The terrible events in Paris were obviously a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can't lose sight that there has been progress being made.

[edit] And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still ahead, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts: Military, humanitarian, and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we're gonna see it through.

[edit] There will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. Ah, but as I said from the start, it's going to take time. Ah, and what's been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listened to those who suggest, uh, something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing.

Ah, the one exception is that there have been a few who've suggested that we should put large numbers of US troops on the ground. Uh, and keep in mind that, you know, we have the finest military in the world, and we have the finest military minds in the world. And I've been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options.

And it is not just my view, but the view of my closet military and civilian advisors, that that would be a mistake.

Not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but 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.
After President Obama had explained what the US' strategy would be and why it would not change, CNN Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta was called on and asked the President: "Earlier, when you said that you had not underestimated ISIS' abilities, ah, this is an organization that you once described as a JV [junior varsity] tea, uh, that evolved into a force that is now occupying territory in Iraq and Syria, and is now able to use that territory as safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is—how is that not underestimating their capabilities and how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see the United States has the greatest military in the world; it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is, if you'll forgive the language, is why can't we take out these bastards?"

To which the President replied: "Well, Jim, I just—I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, uh, so I don't know what more you want me to add. Um, I think I've described very specifically what our strategy is, and I've described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested."

Basically, unless President Obama says "SEND IN THE TROOPS!" he will be accused of not even considering sending in the troops, no matter how many times he, or anyone else, explains that's not a wise or effective idea.

And he knows this. So he continued:
"If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan."

"If they think somehow their advisers are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them," Obama said. "And we can have that debate. But what I'm not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect the people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies and people like France. I'm too busy for that."

..."So we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working," he said, "even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution."
I certainly don't love talk about terrorists that uses a frame of good vs. evil (which leaves no space for legitimate criticisms of our strategy made by civilians in the region), and I'm honestly not sure that the strategy the US is using is objectively the best one (although I'm certain it's the better option between the current strategy and sending in troops), but I am really in favor of and goddamn grateful for the President pushing back hard on the idea that an easy answer exists and the notion that he should pursue military strategies just for the purpose of giving people the satisfaction of a visible and immediate response.

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