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. 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 use their propaganda to give the illusion that they are protecting them. And how do they do that? Through 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 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |

    Regardless of the fact that military expenditures have the poorest return to an economy, they are how Amerika's RENTIER WAR PROFITEER CLASS extracts its tribute... not from the economies of the conquered, but from its very citizens! Only the 24 x 7 propaganda and the FEARMONGERING will continue the flow of largesse from the Wealth Creators, those that labor daily, to those that vacuum it up. I think we have had enough.

    May 26, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Mark

    Keep on ranting and complaining about everything Obama does or tries to do, this will certainly help with the next liberal president taking office.

    May 26, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. maratechfan

    This speech is meant to distract EVERYONE on the 3 scandals in current affairs. I am NOT calling for an impeachment, but heads in the White House must roll. Holder: OUT. Chief of Staff: So Long. Counsel to the President: Sionora.

    May 26, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Hogarth

    Classic straw man argument. First Representative McCaul frames the Obama policy as a though the President himself had called for a return to a "pre-9/11 mentality". He then goes on to say this would be a mistake. And it would be, if that was what the President had actually said.
    It would be refreshing if the Republicans developed actual lines of reasoning, instead of relying on logical fallacies to sway the ignorati.

    May 26, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  6. xx4zu1

    Of course it does. Last week they were complaining about the presidents use of drones to target terrorists. If you haven't figured it out by now nothing our President does will ever be the right decision according to these obstructive right wingers. He could cure cancer, end hunger and bring world peace and they would complain that he increased life expectancy and is single handedly going to bring about the destruction of our country due to over population.

    May 26, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Uncommon Sense

    It's too bad the GOP doesn't want to return to a pre-9/11 world where folks didn't have to worry about being molested at airports and radiated by naked body scanners. Too bad they don't want a return to the day when folks were protected by the constitution/bill of rights instead of being subject to disappear without judge or jury indefinitely at the whim of some bureaucrat. TOO BAD! It's not such a Grand ole Party after all!

    May 26, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. bob from SC

    The GOP should realize that one can make the same argument about WW II, the Korean conflict, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, the Irish Republican Army in Britain, etc etc etc. You do what you can, but can't solve all the problems, or prevent all the violence. Living in a perpetual state of "fear" will get one nowhere....look at the middle east as a prime example ( take your pick with either the Israeli/Arab conflict or Afghanistan). Now returning to a state prior to 9/11 will never be completely successful, just like returning to a state prior to any of the violent events I referred to earlier was 100% successful. But as memories fade ( believe it or not, they will...they always have and always will), something closer to "normalcy" will return.

    May 26, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. PS Miller

    Not all people have the ability to be on a vigilant war footing all the time. They need a rest. This is a wise proposal by the Obama Administration.

    May 26, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. wolfpackbob

    Since the terrorists have not stopped the war, President Obama must be giving up and saying the war is over. Not sure how you can fight a one-sided war? Can the President recuse himelf from the war on terror?

    May 26, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  11. BlindSquirrel

    The Republicans realize that the fear, uncertainty and doubt created by the war on terror is one of an ever dwindling hand of cards that they have remaining on the table. Dubya did more for the cause of terrorism than Bin Laden ever did. Obama is just trying to make the reponse equal to the threat.

    May 26, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  12. Menagerie North

    A state of perpetual war. Really?

    That strike anyone as a good idea for our long term national health, wealth or liberty? I hope not. It's attrition; it's an erosion of our ideals.

    President Obama has been relentless in his pursuit of extremists, something the far right chooses to ignore because it doesn't fit the story they are trying to create. It's bluster.

    He is not talking about dropping the pressure on AQ. Just changing gears. Duh. We now need special forces, intel that works, and global allies who stand with us, not carrier battle groups hovering in the straights of Hormuz spoiling for a fight with Iran.
    Geez. Do we ever learn?

    May 26, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. Layla

    I think it's time to divide up the United States. I, for one, am tired of the regime and the constant harping going on, much of it from this website.

    Let's do it. Let's make the divorce final.

    May 26, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Robert

    Their only "worry" is that there won't be enough slush money into defense dept contracts to kick back to their own pockets. We need to expand our Special Operations budgets and forces instead of fighter jets that are not ready for production and heavy armament from WWII design days.

    May 26, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Bill

    I find the Republicans stance far more concerning than Obama's. Our 'war on terror' has changed just as the tactics and resources of terrorists have. When you have an unconventional enemy, you must be willing to evolve and adapt in order to defeat them. Apparently, the GOP missed that memo. I suppose they would rather us just invade another sovereign country, completely destabilize it, and add another trillion to our debt along the way.

    May 26, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. lobo joe

    I'm always worried when a small group of Republigoons, most of whom are functional illiterates when it comes to details involving what MOS stands for or DIVARTY tactics, impose their imbecilic concepts of defense on the American people. Many of these useless curs have more blood on their hands than many alleged war crimes criminals; Mr. Cheney and Senators Ayotte and Cruz, take note.

    May 26, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. leavingorlovingnyc

    The only difference with handling terrorism as we did before 9-11 is that we don't have an incompetent administration in office, in other words no George W. Bush who claimed he had his a$$ covered when his security people were warning him that Bin Laden wanted to strike inside the U.S. and they might use airliners to do it. I don't remember Obama saying we would be abandoning protecting the country. So, this once again (it's getting so old this charade by Republicans) making political hay out of a speech.

    May 26, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  18. St Xavier

    The Republicans are not worried there pissed off hearing how Obama is running things they have been pissed off ever since Obama was elected an re-elected. I'm sure if the Republicans could have there way they would do away with elections, there in favor of Republican rule 100% of the time.

    May 26, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |

    Too bad the GOP doesn't want to return to a pre-9/11 world where there were no naked body scanners radiating us or paid pedophiles groping us in the airports and now on the highways at checkpoints. So much of the Grand ole Party...TOO BAD!

    May 26, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. bob from SC

    "David's" argument about muslims reminds me of the arguments that were brought forth about President Kennedy being a Catholic during his election....some suggested that he would bow down to the Pope and let the church dictate everything. Sound corny? You bet!

    May 26, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Larry L

    @Nigel Gray

    Those are great quotes... but quotes from men dead over 200 years. They knew nothing of nuclear weapons, cyber attacks, a global economic market, trans-national terrorism, mass communications devices and social media, or the complexities of the world enrgy market. They lived in a mostly homegenous population with relatively little racial, religious, or cultural diversity. The simplistic solutions these quotes suggest can never accomodate the myriad of military, economic, and social challenges of today. We need to respect their guiding principles but adjust to our world.

    May 26, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. Fred Phred

    So Republicans are afraid he'll let the guard down, but are also sad that a muslim terrorist who happened to be a citizen was droned to death – which was too aggressive.

    So which is it? Is he too passive or too aggressive? Make up your minds this week please. I can't seem to keep track anymore.

    May 26, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. rock woman

    This is nothing new. The Republican mantra for years now is to convince us to be afraid, be very afraid. Fearful people are so much easier to control.

    May 26, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  24. allenwoll

    Yeah, It IS disturbing to certain quarters : Harder times ahead for the M-I C ! !
    Lots less bucks to suck away from the people here at home ! !
    Pay attention to what Ike Eisenhower said years ago in warning about the M-I C ! !

    May 26, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Ivan

    No wonder the repub;s wants to continue the biggest welfare program in US history: The military/security complex

    May 26, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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