Obama warns against overreaction to ISIS attacks

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.


Trying to reassure a nation on edge, President Barack Obama said on Sunday that ISIS “cannot strike a mortal blow” against the United States, and warned that overreacting to the Paris attacks would play into extremists’ hands.

“We do not succumb to fear,” he said. “The most powerful tool we have to fight ISIL is to say that we’re not afraid, to not elevate them, to somehow buy into their fantasy that they’re doing something important,” Obama said, using another acronym for ISIS.

Since ISIS militants killed 130 in France nine days ago, Obama’s strategy has come under repeated questioning. He dismissed the group’s global prowess of ISIS and said: “They’re a bunch of killers with good social media.”

More recently, the militant group has started exporting violence outside its stronghold, radiating fears across the West. U.S. officials have said ISIS aspires to attack America but they have played down any specific threat.

“The American people are right to be concerned,” said Obama. Still, he said there’s a difference between vigilance and surrendering to fears “that lead us to abandon our values, to abandon how we live.”

Obama’s insistence that Americans not be pushed into fear carried echoes of the weeks and months after the Sept. 11 attacks, which brought significant changes to U.S. air travel, civil liberties law and views about Muslims in the U.S. Then, as in now, leaders asked Americans not to “let the terrorists win.”

After Obama’s return to Washington early Monday, he will prepare for a White House meeting with French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday, where the leaders will discuss bolstering the international coalition fighting ISIS.


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