A week after U.S. President Barack Obama said “we don’t have a strategy yet” regarding Islamic State militants in Syria, the American people and Congress are still wondering where the president stands. Obama is taking heat from political leaders on both sides of the aisle who want him to act -- and they're pushing legislation to try to force him to take action.
The American public is increasingly worried about the president’s lack of a plan. A Rasmussen poll released Tuesday showed 73 percent of Americans are concerned that the U.S. doesn’t have a strategy, including 47 percent who are “very concerned.”
Obama angered congressional leaders last week after he revealed he didn't have a plan to take out the Islamic State in Syria. During a joint news conference Wednesday with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn, Obama clarified his remarks.
“I was specifically referring to the possibility of the military strategy inside of Syria that might require congressional approval,” Obama said. “It is very important from my perspective that when we send our pilots in to do a job, that we know that this is a mission that's going to work, that we’re very clear on what our objectives are, what our targets are; we’ve made the case to Congress and we’ve made the case to the American people; and we’ve got allies behind us so that it’s not just a one-off, but it’s something that over time is going to be effective.”
Undoubtedly, military action in Syria is a complicated proposition. For one, the U.S. doesn’t recognize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and Washington indicated that Assad won’t be consulted if there is a military operation. The U.S. also lacks any sophisticated on-the-ground intelligence like it enjoys with the Iraqi military and Kurds in Iraq, where airstrikes have been underway since last month.
Nevertheless, a majority of Americans -- 60 percent -- favor airstrikes in Syria, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted late last month. A year ago, when Obama moved to launch airstrikes in Syria but was thwarted by Congress, only 13 percent of American’s agreed with the president.
The video released Tuesday showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff further fueled calls on both sides of the aisle for Obama to hit ISIS in Syria.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., said the longer Obama puts off taking action, the stronger ISIS will become.
"The threat posed by ISIL should transcend partisan politics; with each passing day this terrorist group grows more capable and the danger to the U.S., our allies, and our interests becomes more serious,” Cornyn said in a statement released Tuesday. “The President, utilizing all levers of American power, must develop a clear strategy with achievable objectives and recruit a coalition of allies willing to defeat this terrorist threat. I encourage the President to communicate this strategy to the American public and work in good faith with Congress, including seeking proper authorization, to ensure these objectives are met.”
More surprisngly, a handful of liberal Democrats this week also slammed the president's lack of leadership, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who decried Obama for being “too cautious” on acting against ISIS.
“I was troubled by the President’s recent suggestion that the Administration has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to address the growing threat of ISIL’s activities in Syria,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to Politico. Franken singled out Douglas McAuthur McCain, an American who was killed last week fighting alongside ISIS.
“One American who went to high school in Minnesota has been confirmed to have been killed in Syria while fighting with ISIL, and others have traveled there to fight with ISIL as well," he said. "We must act diligently and responsibly to prevent Americans from taking up arms with ISIL, or from reentering if they do.”