May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
8 years 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.

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"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. kip

    Americans should be very worried about the Obama administration's failure to provide real national security. President Obama despite the recent SALT Treaty wants to take America below 1,000 nuclear weapons and has failed in his pledge to modernize our nuclear inventory (citing lack of money due to the Sequester) when both Russia and China are designing and introducing whole new classes of advanced nuclear weapons. President Obama has been too timid to act on Syria potentially handing Russia, Iran and Hezbollah a huge victory there and there is the matter of 82,000 deaths in Syria and 1.5 million forced to leave Syria in the past two years and many more dying there each day while this President dithers and talks endlessly about a peace conference under UN auspices . Then there is Iran. President Obama said the USA will not let Iran get nuclear weapons yet he has done nothing beyond some sanctions and some cyber warfare to stop it. Iran is only months away from having nuclear weapons. Obama said no nukes on Korean peninsula yet North Korea has 8-10 nuclear weapons and is working hard to put nuclear warheads on their intermediate and long range missiles. Basically the Obama administration gets an "F grade" in providing real national security to the USA and its major allies particularly in the Middle East where Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon are all threatened by a broader Shia and Allawite driven civil war as the Assad thug is willing to kill every Sunni in Syria if necessary to hold on to power. In the meantime due to Sequester all aspects of US military power are being gutted. Our Air Force just announced a full on third of our fighter strength is not flying anymore due to lack of funds! And Obama is gutting all of our military forces in NATO in Europe.

    May 26, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  2. Dnzo

    There hasn't been a major terrorist attack in almost 12 years. The Boston bombings, while destructive, were not coordinated and executed by an overseas terrorist organization, and were certainly not at the same level and scale. Ending the so-called "war on terror" is a smart move. Using deranged killers like the Tsarnaev brothers or that nutjob in England to perpetuate that is counterproductive.

    May 26, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. themeatwad

    So let me get this straight, the hypocritical Republicans want to increase counter-terrorism intelligence for "security" and decrease counter-terrorism intelligence for "freedom" at the same time. Makes sense.

    May 26, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  4. bibleverse1

    You shouldnt use resources with so little pay off.

    May 26, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. themeatwad

    So the hypocritical Republicans want to increase counter-terrorism intelligence for "security" and decrease counter-terrorism intelligence for "freedom" at the same time. Makes sense.

    May 26, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. john roach

    The truck thathit the bridge on I-5 in washington state should be banned from from the united states road ways there unsafe drivrs..

    May 26, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Rodrigo Z.

    Obviously these lunatic Republicans want to scare the American populace to keep pumping money into their war machine. We are no danger from Iran as we were from Iraq, that is comedy. If any of these corporate puppets including Obama cared about keeping the populace safe they would put some of that military money into storm shelters for schools that are at risk for severe storms.

    May 26, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. wade

    Obama is an idiot I do not care if you are Republican or democrat you should put America first and the first job of any president is to insure our safety not SURRENDER! Obama is KILLING America.

    May 26, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. lIb

    sorry Obama

    May 26, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. Scott

    I notice those for the President have reasons why the GOP wants to keep the war going, those for the GOP can just say "He's a Muslim, He's a traitor" with no proof.
    The Gop is beholden to the war industry, they have shown it over and over, Bush started the war in Iraq for 2 reasons, to help his re-election chances and to make money for the war industry. He did not care and still does not care about the thousands of U.S. service members who would die.
    "Going back to a pre 9/11 mentality" what a bunch of bull, we can never, will never do that. The counter terrorism will not stop, what will stop is our service men and women will stop dying in countries that will hate us and be our enemies 5 to 10 years after we leave no matter what we do.

    May 26, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Cindy

    Obama is just telling his liberal leftist sheep to go back to sleep. Boston didnt happen, think of how happy you were before 9/11, dont kick up a fuss, give me all your wages so I can spend spend spend, I will take care of you, feed you, clothe you and let you smoke pot, and let you have free abortions when you are to lazy to take your pills. Its ok children, daddy knows best. Sleep now kids, never grow up and all will be well. I can handle the boogie man from overseas, we wont let him hurt you. Sleep now, go to sleep.

    May 26, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. Dan

    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" -Some dude on Usenet in the early 1990s, often misattributed to Benjamin Franklin

    May 26, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Anita

    What happened to obeying the laws of the land, and when in Rome, do as the Romans do? The terrorist want to beat this country down until it's their country. Trouble is, they wont want to be here anymore if it turns into their country. What our leaders are doing is like inviting a rapist/child abuser to live in our homes with our children, just because they "say" they are nice. Wake up America, we are losing our country, and our freedom. To have both Islam, and the American way of life is impossible.

    May 26, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Namestevenh

    If we let off now we get destroyed.

    May 26, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. Mariner II

    Like we were prepared pre911? Pure BS. Pre 911 The CIA had a budget of 30billion dollars, the Pentagon 450billion. Did it protect us? Osama Bin Laden pulled off 911 with 19men and 500,000 dollars. Do the math we got outsmarted by 19men with boxcutters. You think throwing more money at the problem is going to solve the problem? Wrong. The people who are trying to sell this mentality are the same people who dropped the ball pre911. The time to fix the bridge is not after its collapsed but before hand. The GOP the group of people that are always promoting these ideas are the very people who blew it when they were in charge. Who was the president at the time Bin Laden pulled off his plan? George W. Bush! Did he protect you with his stragtegy for geo-political brinksmanship?Now the same folks that pretend to have solutions are out there hawking the same old BS. Everytime the GOP has been at the wheel they blow it and then when enough time has gone by, hoping that you've forgotten how badly they've blown it, they come back for another round and blame someone else. Now the story is that Obama won't keep us safe. 47,000 Americans died last year and for the last 9years in a row because they didn't have health insurance. Did the GOP keep them safe? Wake up America, the country is going down the tubes because you keep electing idiots like Graham and his pals to an office that they aren't fit to work in.

    May 26, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. Dana Olson

    Does this mean I can leave my jacket on, my shoes on, not have to go through a strip search scanner and end up getting patted down anyway because multiple zippers on my cargo pants-to-shorts made me look suspicious? Is there sane air travel in the future? Please?

    May 26, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. george t hibs

    Ladies and Gentlemen, in case you missed the announcement Jimmy Carter is now back in the White House, singing Kumbaya with al Qaeda, for peace, love and understanding of extremism and terror. Oh, wait a minute, it is not Carter it is Obama. Like the Boston Marathon attack never happened? This guy is out of sync with reality.

    May 26, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. SId Airfoil

    Republicans accuse Democrats of moving us towards Marxist socialism, while they try to rush us towards militaristic fascism. Obama is right. A free nation cannot survive a perpetual war. The requirements of war, while sometimes necessary temporarily, are anathema to individual rights and liberty. It is time we shifted this "war" away from the military community and back to the intelligence community (which we work should work hard to improve after their Iraq WMD debacle, a mistake for which we are still paying dearly).


    May 26, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. John Stredkal

    If the Republicans are worried, it MUST be a good thing.

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

    The Republicans could not possibly care less for America. Their only interest is keeping defense spending up, making sure that the defense contractors get their share which results in money flowing to the Republicans. First of all, if terrorism is really a world wide threat, why is it only the US who puts more into defense spending than the sum of the next highest countries defense spending. Also, Al Qaeda is a gang, comfortable being in any country. All we have done under Bushism is to attack an innocent country (Iraq). We have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in these countries with our perpetual war. Also, as it was said in the 50's, its ether guns or butter. Guns are winning out. These Republicans could not possibly care less about the soldiers who are having their lives trashed by our endless war. There motto is just keep the bucks flowing into the defense contractors and keep the oil companies safe. As for me, I would be in favor of charging these conservatives with high treason against the people of the US because of this. After all, one of there own, Ron Paul, said that because of constant bombing the people of these countries, its no wonder they don't like us. By bringing perpetual war to these countries, we are the terrorists greatest recruitment tool.

    May 26, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. JKlapper

    I must apologize to the American Public at large for sending this war monger to Congress. I did NOT vote for him, but the Delay/GOP Gerrymandering made it so I am stuck in this rich city boy representing a rural district no where near his base is my Representative. That he has issue with this country returning to what it was before 9/11 says all that needs to be said about "who won" the "War on Terror". We have met the enemy, and they are our own Government...

    May 26, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  22. toad

    New terror stance worries Republicans... because it wasn't their idea.

    May 26, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. Ash

    Here's some common sense: In order for the war on terror to end, terror first needs to end. For anyone who reads the news, they'll know that terrorism is more rampant today than it was before. And another thing: isn't a pre-9/11 mentality part of the reason security was so lax that day, allowing 19 terrorists to board those planes? So basically, Obama wants to stop fighting terrorists who aren't willing to stop fighting us, and he wants the country to resume our way of thinking as before 9/11 – which is the belief that all is good in the world, and we're safe from terrorism. Such naiveté! Is Obama suffering from memory loss, or is he just waiting for the next attack to come?

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

    You mean the Republicans took a different stance than Obama on something? That never happens.

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

    If I heard a big uproar from both sides of the isle I might think there is a problem. Does the republican side think they are the only ones in the know about terrorist activities and are the only ones that really care about us peons?

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