News / USA

President Obama Praised for Sticking to American Values on Counter-Terrorism

Security experts want US to better anticipate terrorist attacks

As President Obama completes his first year in office, security experts give him high marks for sticking to American values and trying to win the hearts of Muslims while taking steps to avert terrorist attacks. But they also say the U.S. must not wait to fix a weakness until after it is exposed by an attack.

"While passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let's be clear about what this moment demands, we are at war," President Obama said.

And that war is against the kind of terrorism that authorities say a Nigerian man attempted when he allegedly tried to bomb a US airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day [December 25]. President Obama promised to use "every element of national power" to keep Americans safe.

Some security experts say that President Obama avoids comparing the war on terrorism to conventional war between nations, but he has taken several steps to contain the threat.

Clark Irwin is with the Aspen Institute:

"People don't realize that President Obama has really intensified the effort to go after al-Qaida central in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The drone strikes have really intensified under his tenure. He famously, after much deliberation, is increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan," Irwin said.

President Obama is doing something that his predecessor did not do, says Irwin.

"The struggle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim community here in the U.S. and around the world," Irwin said.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney accuses Mr. Obama of pretending not to be at war with terrorist organizations. But Jacob Shapiro at Princeton University says the use of the word "war" actually helps the terror groups.

"It plays into the narrative that they are trying to construct for the population they are appealing to of this ragged band of brave individuals fighting the mighty power that is oppressing their society. And it also helps their efforts to create fear and anxiety in our population," Shapiro said.

Paul Pillar at Georgetown University says if it is not war, then the Obama administration needs to spell out the exact nature of the struggle. The former CIA veteran says there should be an open debate about what price Americans are willing to pay for security against terrorism.

"It might be privacy, it might be personal liberty, it might be the convenience of the traveling public. It might be monetary cost, it might be cost in blood and treasure for military operations overseas, as in Afghanistan," Pillar said.

Michael German of the American Civil Liberities Union says the American public does not fully understand what is at stake in the war against terrorism.

"I think that is something that this administration needs to address immediately, and it is already a year behind," German said.

But he says the Obama administration should get credit for not giving up on American values while fighting against terrorists.

"Our policies and procedures do express American values - tolerance, transparency, respect for rule of law and due process. Those things will ultimately keep us stronger and protect us better than any sort of effort to stomp out who we perceive as the bad guys," German said.

Clark Irwin at the Aspen Institute agrees. But he says the recent failed airplane bomb attack makes clear Mr. Obama's administration must do more to combat terrorism.  Security officials have to anticipate the next attack.

"One of the things we need to start doing is to get ahead of the curve by trying to anticipate additional methods that can be used against us and closing the gaps before those gaps are exploited," Irwin said.

Security experts agree that given the number of targets and the infinite ways they can be exploited, security can never be 100 percent.  But they say that does not mean the Obama administration can lower its guard and stop working toward achieving that.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs