May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
11 months ago

New terror stance worries Republicans

(CNN) – The new era in America's war on terror - described by President Barack Obama in a major address Thursday - worries some Republicans, who say the phase-down could leave the country vulnerable to still-persistent threats from abroad.

In his remarks, Obama insisted the fight against terrorists must shift to reflect current threat levels, which he described as having evolved since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The global "war on terror," launched in the aftermath of those attacks, must end, "like all wars," the president maintained.

"I think this is the most significant foreign policy address ever given by this president," said Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "At the same time I found many parts to it disturbing for many reasons."

Chief among his concerns was Obama's call for a return to what McCaul described as a "pre-9/11 mentality," a mindset the Republican argued could lead to a dangerous level of unpreparedness as threats emerge from sources other than al Qaeda.

"I couldn't disagree with him more on that," McCaul said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

In his remarks Thursday, Obama described al Qaeda as "on the path to defeat" in its longstanding bases of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but warned the terror group's affiliates in other countries still posed lethal threats to Americans.

But those groups, Obama said, are "less capable" than the larger al Qaeda, and are focused more on operating in the countries where they're based, rather than planning an attack on the American homeland.

Attacks on America are still being planned, the president warned, and "our nation is still threatened by terrorists." Yet the current threat has vastly changed in the decade-plus since the war on terror began, he said.

"We have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11," the president said.

McCaul said Sunday the intelligence he's seen as chairman of the homeland security panel suggests a more serious danger than Obama described.

"I think the rhetoric sort of defies the reality in terms of the threat level that we've all been briefed on," he said. "I mean, the narrative is sort of that, you know, al Qaeda is on the run, they're defeated, let's claim victory, war's over. And then let's go back to a pre-9/11 mentality."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, argued a scaled-down war footing could send the wrong message to potential enemies.

"What do you think the Iranians are thinking? At the end of the day, this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine, making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I've never been more worried about our national security as I am right now. This speech did not help," Graham added.

"I see a big difference between the president saying a war is at an end and whether or not you've won the war," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, added on CBS "Face the Nation." "We can claim it's at an end but this war is going to continue and we have tremendous threats throughout that are building, not declining, building."

In his address Thursday, Obama noted the difficulty in balancing Americans' freedoms during wartime, a task Sen. Dick Durbin argued Sunday would be made easier as the country's terror stance shifts.

"You find in a warlike atmosphere that you end up compromising some basic values and basic freedoms and liberties," Durbin, D-Illinois, said on "Fox News Sunday" in his defense of Obama's speech. "That's what the president reminded us. I'm not going to take lightly the terrorism threat against the United States. But if we're constantly thinking of this in the context of war, we stand a very real risk of doing things which compromise our values and freedoms."

Another Obama ally, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on CBS the shift away from war that Obama advocated Thursday was a suitable reflection of how threats have changed in the past decade.

"I think the president did a very, very smart pivot realizing we're not going to let up on terrorists but at the same time we're going meet the changes in the world,” he said.


Filed under: Mike McCaul • Terrorism
soundoff (488 Responses)
  1. carl nelson

    This has nothing to do with protecting our democratic way of life. This is about imperialism and access to resources. Our way of life depends on the plunder of foreign nations. We are "consumers" as defined by our own home spun Corperatachracy. Our sole purpose is to consume, and consume we do. Only 5% 0f the worlds population we consume 25% of the worlds energy. So addicted are we to the gluttonous life we can not afford to question the authority of those who feed our ever growing appetite. So we quote Ben Franklin and pretend we are fighting some noble cause. We must not look at the men woman and children in Iraq Afghanistan, slaughtered in the name of freedom as anything other than "Terrorists", to do so would mean awakening to the painful truth that we are the Terrorists preying on the weak, under developed people, we would have to acknowledge that it is our consumptive wasteful life style that fuels the permanent state of war. I know some will offer that if I don't like it here I can leave....blah, blah, blah. But you can not argue against the truth.

    May 26, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. censored

    To sit here and not be able to respond to these dumbest of all people lets me know how much influence liberal news has had in the destruction of a country, envied by many until the last few years. You have helped make this country a third world country.No one can survive Liberalism but a few short years.

    May 26, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Jeff

    Republicans disagree with Obama? What's the world coming to?

    May 26, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. DMR

    For the GOP/TP the whining about any and everything Obama does or does not do continues to growing increasingly annoying. If it is raining outside, it is Obama's fault. If the sun came up this morning it is Obama's fault. If 7-11 raises the price on a Slushy, it is Obama's fault. It is increasingly obvious the GOP/TP is part of the problem rather than part of the solution for any thing that needs to be addressed.

    May 26, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. TJ

    So wait, first Obama gets attacked about his use of drones on citizens, potentially violating their rights. Now he's getting attacked for warning us about the dangers of broad wars on freedom and is trying to get back to a state of peace (where, it seems implied, certain war measures will no longer be active). Republicans REALLY need to make up their minds; this is ridiculous.

    May 26, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. Mohammad

    Jewish professor and historian ILAN PAPP´ in his book ethnic cleansing of Palestine says "one
    of the first recruits to this special training base recalled his first reconnaissance
    mission to the nearby village of Umm al-Zaynat in 1944. The aim had been to
    survey the village and bring back details of where the mukhtar lived, where
    the mosque was located, where the rich villagers lived, who had been active
    in the 1936–39 revolt, and so on. These were not dangerous missions, as the
    infiltrators knew they could exploit the traditional Arab hospitality code and
    were even guests at the home of the mukhtar himself. As they failed to collect
    in one day all the data they were seeking, they asked to be invited back. For
    their second visit they had been instructed to make sure to get a good idea of
    the fertility of the land, whose quality seemed to have highly impressed them:
    in 1948, Umm al-Zaynat was destroyed and all its inhabitants expelled without
    any provocation on their part whatsoever.23" The same fate happened for more than 500 villages. In a nut shell motivation from Israel and fatwas from Saudi Arabia is the source of all this barbarism coming to our doorsteps.

    May 26, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  7. Bill2000

    Remember the terror alerts BUSH/Cheney gave us? Scared everyone into a war based on lies that cost the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Remember when pallets of millions of dollars disappeared in Iraq? Remember before you vote more Republicans into office!

    May 26, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. KellyF

    GOOD. We do not need to continue to live our lives in fear. It's about time someone said it. Of course fear is all Repugs know.

    May 26, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Joshua

    I just think its interesting how now the Obama administration and other democrats are talking about how our stance on terrorism is compromising our freedoms and values. Where was that kind of talk during the gun control debates? Was the attempt to control guns also compromising our freedoms and values? Its just amazing to me how people can condemn and villianize people of the right for getting upset about this. Here the democrats (not really democrats now, more like the liberal/progressive party) can try to argue that our freedoms are being compromised but wouldn't hear a word of that during the gun control debate

    May 26, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. mom

    If ever Obama has come out with words showing his incredible naivete and incompetence, it is these words.

    May 26, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  11. Chris

    Of course it does.

    May 26, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Steve

    Republican opposition to everything Obama proposes is tiresome and unhealthy for our country, and the party of stupidv has made itself irrelevant.

    May 26, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. bill davis

    Obama makes these GOP clowns look so stupid. He kills terrorist they complain. We haven't had a 9/11 style attack they complain. he kills bin Laden yep they complain. It doesn't matter what this POTUS does Republicans complain. They should try doing their jobs and helping the country succeed. Even without them President Obama has done what's right for America..

    May 26, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  14. simba

    senator graham, president obama, and all others who will listen... the constitution is not negotiable, no single sentence, no single paragraph, no single letter of the constitution is negotiable. furthermore, it is not the job of the president or legislature to interpret the consitution; that is the job of the supreme court. when you, legislatures conduct affairs (of this nation) in contradiction of the constitution, you are in breach of contract. that contract is between us (american citizens) and you (elected officials). the contract provides constraints as to what you can or can not do. Implication being that under no circumstances can your actions violate our contract with you; doing so, could make you guilty of treason.
    That said, Iran is not a threat. Israel is the threat. Israel has invaded Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine. Israel is in violation of several UN security council resolutions. Israel practices appertheid with respect to the Palestinians. Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has (not suppossedly) several nuclear war-heads. Israel has been implicated in spying on the US and stealing defense secrets. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. Iran has not invaded another country for about 200+ years (Iraq initiated the war with Iran). Iran is not in violation of any UN security council resolutions. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty. Hence, Senator Graham, the true threat is Israel; not Iran. I understand Senator, AIPAC has stuffed your pockets for several years; but AIPAC does not serve the interests of the US. By you, senator, bowing to AIPAC, you are committing treason.

    May 26, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  15. downwithnazis

    You guys on the right mean that you do not want us to behave the way W and Cheney behaved?

    May 26, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  16. Danko Ramone

    So, Obama doesn't want the war to last forever, and Republicans do. Republicans are making money via investments because of the war, and Obama isn't, in a nutshell.

    May 26, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  17. Mr Mac

    So, a republican disagrees with the president and screams "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" What else is new?!? As long as Obama say it's white, the repubs will insist it's black.

    May 26, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  18. Steve

    "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
    Love these quotes by Patrick Henry and pretty phrases by Thomas Jefferson too. Both were slave owners.

    May 26, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  19. Michael Tilse

    I suggest you read "Arsenals Of Folly" by Richard Rhodes. It shows that the neocons vastly overestimated the threat of the soviet union and miserably failed to see our actions from any realistic russian viewpoint. The soviet union viewed the threat against them as the U.S. and NATO and other allies potentially combined and China added to that. That's what they were trying to attain parity with for defense. The U.S. under the neocons was trying to have overwhelming superiority of the U.S. alone vs the soviet union. So, to the S.U., it looked constantly like preparing for a first strike nuclear war.

    So here we are with the present conservatives following this party line, shouting how this weakens us, while by any objective measure the U.S. is by far the biggest kid on the block with far more weapons and men under arms and capability than could rationally be needed.

    May 26, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. Hammertoe

    Yes. It's about time we demilitarized the police again.

    May 26, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. RichardSRussell

    Republicans say: Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

    Who's REALLY spreading terror here?

    May 26, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. Jocho Johnson

    Well if we support al-Qaeda in Syria like we have been, they might be less interested in attacking us.

    ??

    May 26, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. cliffintex

    This is a scramble to get the far left back in Obama's fold. With the 2014 elections looming and the left isn't looking real good, he's hoping this will generate excitement. There is some truth to some of what he says – but in the main, it's just more campaigning.

    May 26, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Shecky

    Obama is a terrorist sympathizer.

    May 26, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. RichardSRussell

    Republicans say: Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

    You're easier to control that way.

    Who's REALLY spreading terror here?

    May 26, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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