News / USA

    ISIS Beheadings Could Spur US Public Support for Military Response

    An image grab taken from a video released by the Islamic State (IS) and identified by private terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence Group purportedly shows U.S. freelance writer Steven Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape speaking to the camera before being beheaded by a masked militant (R), Sept. 2, 2014.
    An image grab taken from a video released by the Islamic State (IS) and identified by private terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence Group purportedly shows U.S. freelance writer Steven Sotloff dressed in orange and on his knees in a desert landscape speaking to the camera before being beheaded by a masked militant (R), Sept. 2, 2014.

    As the Obama administration weighed in heavily on Wednesday with stern warnings to Islamic State militants, some U.S. lawmakers are demanding extensive air attacks while others are taking a more measured response.

    The rhetoric could help spur U.S. public support for a military response, analysts say.

    U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a press conference at the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, Sep. 3, 2014.U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a press conference at the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, Sep. 3, 2014.
    x
    U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a press conference at the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, Sep. 3, 2014.
    U.S. President Barack Obama talks during a press conference at the Bank of Estonia in Tallinn, Estonia, Sep. 3, 2014.

    President Barack Obama told reporters in Estonia that the U.S. intends to build a coalition to “degrade and destroy” Islamic State militants. Obama spoke after U.S. officials confirmed the veracity of a video that showed the beheading of an American journalist held captive by Islamic State militants.

    Speaking in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Vice President Joe Biden said of IS: “We will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice because hell is where they will reside.”

    Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a likely contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, spoke too in tough language to a conservative conference in Dallas a few days ago.

    ‘“ISIS says they want to go back and reject modernity,” he said. “Well, I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age!”

    Other lawmakers are urging a more cautious approach and appear willing to give the Obama administration more time to formulate a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIS.  

    "It takes time to build a coalition.  We can’t simply bomb first and ask questions later," said Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington State who appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation. "We have to have the right targets and the right support in order to be effective in stopping ISIS.”

    Sotloff’s death and the previous beheading of American journalist James Foley have angered many Americans and that in turn could spur public opinion in support of military strikes against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.

    Sotloff was a native of Florida and state Governor Rick Scott took the unusual step of interrupting a campaign event to announce the reporter's death and condemn those responsible.

    “The people who did this are evil. They are not merely wrong. They are not adversaries," he said. "They are evil.”

    But so far there has been little domestic public polling on the threat posed by ISIS and what the U.S. should do about it.

    A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll taken before the Sotloff murder found Americans split on the question of whether to intervene in Iraq. Twenty-nine percent said the U.S. should not intervene. Twenty-one percent said the U.S. should launch airstrikes to support the Iraqi government, while 22 percent said they didn’t know what the response should be.

    Karlyn Bowman, who monitors U.S. public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said many Americans are likely to see Islamic State as a threat worthy of some form of military response.  

    “Over the course of the summer clearly we saw reluctance to get very involved in the situation in the Middle East,” she said. “We’ve certainly seen a lot of polls. But this represents such a clear danger and with members of Congress and the president talking about how clear the danger is I think public opinion will follow.”

    Bowman also said the gruesome nature of the beheading videos of the two American journalists leads to outrage among the public and a greater determination to support actions that target the terrorists.

    “The nature of the images, just the discussions and being able to hear these people’s voices, it has a very, very powerful effect on public opinion,” she said.

    But public support is not likely to extend to the use of U.S. ground troops, said Ohio State expert John Mueller. Mueller has written extensively about the reluctance of the American public to commit ground forces in the wake of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

    “Efforts that are pinprick-like and supportive and do not cost American lives might find a certain amount of tolerance but not anything bigger than that,” he said. “The American public seems to be overwhelmingly fed up with getting into these foreign wars and there is intense wariness about getting involved with ground troops.”

    The public will have plenty of opportunities to express itself in the weeks ahead.

    Congress returns to Washington next week and the U.S. response to the threat posed by Islamic State is likely to be a central focus of debate. Some lawmakers are already urging the president to seek congressional approval before launching a wider military campaign against the extremist group.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: bob van riezen from: grimsby ontario
    September 03, 2014 5:53 PM
    It is interesting that there is a reluctance to support military involvement, however this group hiding behind religious names is evil through and through. Hitlers goons were attracted to the idea that they could beat and eventually murder with impunity. This group is attracted to torture and terrorize and have nothing to with Muslim or Islamic thinking. People who need to hide their face or talk about war without uniforms and killing indiscriminately are subhuman and need to be removed.

    by: Angel Nazario from: 23 Hitchcock rd Worc, MA
    September 03, 2014 5:06 PM
    Should have been done right the first time, send the troops in & let them finish it!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora