Obama’s Approach to ISIS: The Nuance We Need

Image Courtesy of freestockphotos.biz

Teni Adedeji
Staff Writer

“Thanks, Obama.”

While this sarcastic phrase might have recently fizzled out of social media — overshadowed by the recent ISIS bombings in Belgium — it’s now never been more relevant. On Mar. 22, the tragedy in Brussels left a ripple effect of emotion across the globe. In response to the deadly act of violence, President Obama said a few sorrowful words at a Cuban baseball game declaring ISIS to be his “top priority” at the moment.

Even though his location was rather casual for addressing the deadly terrorist attack, his message spoke loud and clear about an unwavering determination towards stopping ISIS. And unlike recent issues such as gun control, his goals at this time fall on par with the known Republican political agenda, in that one might think that the GOP would be supporting him in his efforts.

Yet, almost immediately, notable members of the party have spoken to criticize him. Representative Peter King (R-NY) said “the president should have done more to show solidarity with Belgium” while presidential candidate Ted Cruz claims that Obama “refuses to acknowledge this reality” that “Radical Islam is at war with us.”

Although his appearance at a baseball game is certainly noteworthy, that small technicality cannot be the core reason why Obama is receiving so much backlash from the GOP as well as within the media. Instead, it’s the illusion that the United States must react to terrorism by implementing harsher policies for foreigners.

In the wake of the Brussels tragedy, presidential candidate Donald Trump called for all Muslims to be banned from coming to the United States. Compared to Obama’s coolly given address, Trump’s heated rhetoric ignites more emotion within the population during this time of despair. While Trump can certainly be seen to have extremist views, for once his response isn’t too far off from the way the United States has reacted to these situations in the past.

With every possible terrorist threat, there is a call for tighter foreign policies. Even with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when the terrorist was American, the United States still implemented harsher immigration policies after the incident, despite the fact that it would not have prevented the domestic attack.

People want to feel safe — even if safety is just an illusion. However, banning all Muslims would only create a false sense of security, similar to hiding under the covers from a “monster” or grabbing a butter knife to ward off an intruder. While it is always nice to feel secure, in this case, there is a huge problem with policies that don’t properly distinguish between terrorists and lawful foreigners.

In order for the United States to obtain significant pieces of intel to prevent threats, it is necessary to form alliances with certain groups, such as Muslims, rather than alienate them from the country. There are benefits to inviting Muslims to join the fight against Islamic extremists. They can provide useful information on how to approach terrorism. However, there are no positives to lumping together millions of innocent people with a handful of radical terrorists solely due to their religion. It might provide a transient feeling of safety, but is that really the trade-off we want to make for effectiveness?

Within two days of the Brussels bombings, the Pentagon stated they believe they have managed to track down and kill the second most important senior leader of ISIS. This shows that there is a definite possibility for the terrorist group to be taken down and handled systematically without legalizing policies of hatred towards Muslims.

President Obama’s response to the Brussels attacks may not have appealed to the emotions of Twitter and Facebook users, but that doesn’t classify him as being apathetic or blind to the situation at hand. He made the decision to lead the country in a firm, relaxed manner rather than feeding off the negative energy to gain votes in his favor. While his approach might not have raised the spirits of the population, that doesn’t mean it was unsuccessful.