By Sen. John Thune
Our continued thoughts and prayers are with the victims of last week’s senseless attacks in Paris. Our admiration goes out to the law enforcement and military personnel who so bravely rushed toward danger to protect the innocent and weak. While the Paris attacks have dominated the headlines, we cannot forget the people of Beirut, Lebanon, who just days before the attacks in Paris also suffered great loss at the hands of ISIS terrorists. It is oftentimes hard to be strong when faced with such adversity – the American people know it all too well – but despite the hardship, France and Lebanon have stood strong, and the American people stand with them.
ISIS has proven to be one of the most brutal instruments of evil the world has ever known. They kill and maim the innocent with no regard for humanity. ISIS’ campaign of violence is not limited to certain regions, nationalities, or religions. Faced with these dangers, we cannot be naïve to think that if given the opportunity, ISIS would not try to perpetrate an attack on U.S. soil. ISIS represents a clear and present danger to the world, and it must be stopped.
Unfortunately, I don’t think President Obama is willing to take the necessary steps to ensure ISIS’ reign of terror is stopped. When asked about ISIS the day before the Paris attacks, the president said, “I don’t think [ISIS is] gaining strength … From the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them.” Less than 24 hours after the president’s comments, nearly 130 people were massacred in the streets of Paris by the very people he said were “contained.” Following the attacks, the president described this enormous loss of life as a “setback” and said, “We have the right strategy and we’re going to see it through.”
This is much more than a “setback,” and unfortunately it is the president’s failed leadership and foreign policy that have escalated this situation. It was the president’s politically motivated decision to withdraw troops from Iraq that ultimately allowed ISIS to expand into northern Iraq. By controlling territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS is able to train and recruit, as well as launch attacks through proxies in other countries.
In ISIS’ quest for further death and destruction, there are now fears it is trying to infiltrate the population of peaceful Syrian refugees trying to flee the civil war caused by the dictator Bashar al-Assad. Sadly, because of this threat, I believe the United States should hit the pause button with respect to accepting more Syrian refugees at this time. Should the president try to act unilaterally, Congress should cut off funding to prevent him from taking any action that would put Americans at risk.
Real problems demand real leadership. Without it, America and our allies are increasingly vulnerable to future attacks. The president needs to stop talking about containment and start acting on a strategy that will root out and defeat ISIS wherever it can be found.