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. Lenny Pincus

    The Republican proved themselves to be horrible on terror. They have run stupid wars that had no impact on terrorism. They put a Soviet expert in charge of security and she fell flat on her face. Obama is rightly re-conceiving how to approach this problem–something the military is already doing.

    Republican are nothing more than fossils.

    May 26, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Tallus

    Since the "war" in the Middle East is basically a hit and run game rather than an actual, traditional war, it makes sense to being the soldiers home. There's nothing that can be done for a people who can't be bothered to help themselves. The friends I've had who were stationed in Afghanistan tell me about attempts to train locals to be soldiers and police and they have no discipline. Many show up late for training, others dink around and ignore orders, others just get their training gear and diddle off over the hills. These people are a lost cause.

    All we can do is bring our troops home and do our best to protect against threats we can't see coming. It's like what's been said about Boston and now London. Attacks we're expecting are almost impossible to interrupt simply because they come from very small groups or individuals who 'seem normal' until they act on their hate. No standing army in any country can protect against that sort of thing, especially since its happening here, not there.

    May 26, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Ugh

    We are broke. We simply can't afford to fund these absurd War on Terror and War on Drugs garbage anymore. If we got out of Israel Muslims would probably just leave us completely alone anyway. America has more freedom for Muslims than their countries have.

    May 26, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. dw

    Obama is one who drew red line in sand on Syria and keeps talking up doing something, and worries about WMD in Syria and protecting the WMD. Sound familiar on Iraq?

    May 26, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. Deb Ed

    9-11 is what happened when we got caught with our pants down. Now Obama wants us to go back with our pants down again. I'm not a Republican, I'm a Democrat. When are all the yellow dog Democrats going to say "enough is enough", and quit voting straight ticket? My guess is never, or when another incident like 9-11 happens on Obama's watch. And maybe not even then.

    May 26, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. sfeadmin

    So let me get this straight... the republicans are saying the Bush administration was not prepared for 9/11, in spite of prior intelligence?

    May 26, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. Jc

    I agree that the threats have shifted, but the resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria, plus their coalition with Al Nusra, is incredibly dangerous. Saudi funding has tripled Al Qaedas numbers in the past 3 years, and since we left Iraq we have witnessed hundreds of civilian deaths every week in Iraq. There is also the real fear that Al Qaeda will take control when Syria falls. If Suria falls, so will Iraq's current government, along with Afghsnistan once we pull out. If that happens we will have effectively accomplished what we were afraid of in 2002, the extremist unification of multiple countries. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq would be a true axis of evil. US media downplays the threats in the Middle East because the wars were unpopular and people don't want to hear about all the bombings and threats. Go read any European publication, like the Guardian, and see how vastly different the news coverage is in the region. Obama is selling peace through denial. Its a dangerous game, and will ultimately cost is our economy.

    May 26, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. happyfrenchman

    Republicans think if you are not walking around with a loaded diaper from fright, you must be some kind of treasonous non patriot. I am tired of them.

    May 26, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. truthserker

    This is all a consequence of Refusal to understand the LONG TERM Goal of Islam.....Islam is enslavement of all. The west has NO understanding of this concept!!

    May 26, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  10. shabba shabba

    Repubs. have spent last 5 yrs. doing nothing for America. Just obstructing Obama. These days its hard to believe anything they say. Are they really concerned ? Or just blocking Obama. Again.

    May 26, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. Joshewa mac

    The muslims arent the problem its the US Governent and their false flag terriorist attacks

    May 26, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. getalife

    The only Americans listening to the right these days are the media.

    Too many lies, too many cries of wolf blitzer, too many failures.

    Life is good.

    May 26, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. John P. Tarver

    The President is correct, Homeland Security must go; it is not what my father fought for at Bastogne.

    May 26, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. metalhead65

    we have an effective weapon in drones that they can't stop so what's the first thing he does? use as a last resort and only if we can guarantee a 100 percent the target is there and nobody other than the target gets hurt. just brilliant! with that strategy the terrorists should be able to rebuild and and be back to full strength in 5 years tops. but hey at least we won't be offending any of our arab friends or our great allies in pakistan right? what a joke! the drone program was the only thing he has done right since he took office and he is going to mess that up now to. but at least little future terrorists will be protected.

    May 26, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  15. Vaticunt_on_twitter

    Graham and the GOP, there is ONE commander in chief. Until the next one, touch yourselves!

    May 26, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  16. getalife

    No fear card worries the gop.

    Real Americans refuse to listen to the right because they are a joke.

    Catch up to real Americans cnn.

    May 26, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. OldMo

    Does this mean the NDAA and NDRP are going to be repealed? How about the Patriot Act, TSA, gov't spying, drones etc., etc.? No, none of that is going to go away because all of it was directed at American citizens to begin with. "Terrorism" was just the cover used to sell it.

    May 26, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. Dave

    Of course Republicans want Obama to fail. That's why all they care about is how bad the economy until its not and now how criminal Benghazi was when they'd never acknowledge his foreign policy other than to say it was wrong. They cheer anything if it made Obama look bad regardless of fault or harm. Anyone who thinks Obama had hidden Muslim messages in his books probably can't read anyway and rely on abscissa for what they should think.

    May 26, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  19. Zombie news network

    How would you feel if I came on your property and told you what to ? What would you do? How would you react ? How would you feel if I told you to do something that you felt was immoral ? What if I pressed my immorals on your house hold?
    You would feel that my pressing is an act of War.

    May 26, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. John

    I cannot believe that at one time I actually respected Lindsey Graham. We are going to be on a "war footing" forever?

    May 26, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Jack

    What of the GOP's stock portfolios sunk into the military industrial complex? How can returns be guaranteed without perpetual war? How can they sell more drones for domestic surveillance? How can they sell cameras on every street corner?

    May 26, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Just

    O is dreaming just wanting to " wish" the terrorists away. They want all of us dead but again the politicians can't see reality from the smokescreen.

    May 26, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Marcos

    This whole thing is a charade. Pretty much since the start of the US, there has been a history of war. War is BIG business in the US. Oil is BIG business in the US. The politicians simply need to keep the war machine going and BS the people into thinking if about protecting them and installing fear. We have to wake up and stop the insanity. We have no business starting wars with other countries for oil and other political interests.

    May 26, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. Logic Larry

    “You find in a warlike atmosphere that you end up compromising some basic values and basic freedoms and liberties,” Durbin, D-Illinois.

    Tell me mister Democrat. Where do you get freedoms and Liberties? It's not the military so it must be from green energy and free cell phones.

    May 26, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Jasper Dukakis

    The truth lies somewhere between Bush and Obama. Either one at it's "extreme" is not good for this country. People are still blaming Bush and using Bush's mistakes to support Obama's mistakes. Very sad. Let's stop pointing fingers and use some common sense. The war on terror is unfortunately not over, we see brazen attacks all over the world, to drop our guard would be a foolish mistake going in the other "direction."

    May 26, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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