President Obama Scrambles To Restore Confidence In Handling of Islamic State Terrorism

Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on November 22, 2015, on the sidelines of the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) Summit. Obama and his counterparts from China, India, Japan and elsewhere are meeting in Kuala Lumpur for two days of talks hosted …
Fred Defour/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama insists his plan to defeat Islamic State terrorists is working, he’s warning Americans that fear would only help the terrorists.

“We will not give in to fear, or start turning on each other, or treating some people differently because of religion or race or background,” he said during a press conference in Malaysia. “That wouldn’t just be a betrayal of our values, it would also feed ISIL’s propaganda.”

Obama spent all of last week traveling through Asian countries to promote his Trans-Pacific Trade deal and a campaign against climate change, but was repeatedly forced to discuss his strategy against ISIS in multiple press conferences with world leaders.

His first press conference in response to the attacks in Paris was widely considered to be disastrous, as he appeared annoyed by reporters who repeatedly questioned his dispassionate demeanor.

On Synday, however, Obama emphasized the strength of the international coalition committed to fighting ISIS and tried to restore confidence in his ability to destroy the network through a carefully executed air campaign. He argued that ISIS was not winning, although it is spreading fear across the world.

“That’s the very nature of terrorism –they can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us into being afraid, into changing our patterns of behavior, into panicking, into abandoning our allies and partners, into retreating from the world,” he said. “And as President, I will not let that happen.”

But Obama’s rhetoric only goes so far.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that 83 percent of registered voters believe a large-scale terrorist attack in the United States is likely. Sixty percent back more ground forces against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Fifty-seven percent in the poll signaled disapproval of Obama’s response to ISIS.

During his press conference, Obama repeatedly urged Americans not to be afraid of the terrorist threat posed by ISIS, calling them “a bunch of killers with good social media.”

“We cannot respond from fear,” he said. “And the American people, in the past, have confronted some very real, enormous threats, and we beat them. We vanquished them. This will be no different.”

Obama recalled the attacks on 9/11, pointing out that America overcame the terror that terrorists tried to inflict on the country, even as he suggested that political leaders made mistakes in response to the attacks.

“I think we made some bad decisions subsequent to that attack in part based on fear, and that’s why we have to be cautious about it,” he warned. “We have to think things through.”

The president has come under fire for refusing to escalate military operations in response to the the terrorist attacks in Paris, choosing instead the highlight the plight of Syria refugees.

Obama is expected to meet with French President Francois Hollande at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the military campaign against ISIS.