Conservatives on Wednesday slammed the White House’s handling of radical extremism worldwide, saying that Islamic extremism presents a greater threat than the Obama administration will acknowledge.
At a summit hosted by the Center for Security Policy — a week ahead of President Obama’s own conference on countering violent extremism — speakers said the administration has lost its way in combating threats ranging from a nuclear-armed Iran to the Islamic State.
“The words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ do not come out of the president’s mouth … and that is dangerous,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican. “Radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to this nation, and we need leadership to stand up and defend the United States of America.”
Much of the discussion focused on the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL, which has grabbed large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Aiming to create an Islamic caliphate, the group has carried out a series of brutal murders, including burning to death a captured Jordanian pilot.
On Tuesday, U.S. officials confirmed that an American hostage being held by the Islamic State, aid worker Kayla Mueller, was killed, though the exact means of her death were not revealed publicly.
Mr. Cruz, who is a likely 2016 presidential candidate, criticized Mr. Obama’s foreign policy plan, saying it has focused on “seeking political consensus and compromise.”
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“The solution to ISIS is not eliminating poverty throughout the Middle East. The solution to ISIS is to hunt down and kill the Islamic leaders,” the senator said. “ISIS is the face of evil. They are beheading children, they are crucifying Christians, they are beheading journalists. That’s what ISIS is carrying out right now.”
The Obama administration is seeking congressional authorization to expand the war on terror against the Islamic State, and is trying to address criticism that it has been weak and slow in addressing the threat.
At Wednesday’s conference, Mr. Cruz also slammed Mr. Obama’s comments that a January shooting in a Paris coffee shop was a random act and not related to the fact that the victims were Jewish.
“No sentient being believes what occurred there was random,” he said. “This is not just random violence. This is a very direct religious theology and political philosophy.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the president is grasping at “any excuse to avoid facing reality.” The Georgia Republican likened Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism policy to the movie “Groundhog Day,” saying the president isn’t learning anything and is simply repeating past mistakes.
“The president said last year that we have proof our system is working and it’s Yemen. Having your embassy occupied by the enemy and having the vehicles you bought used by the enemy is not called victory,” said Mr. Gingrich, referring to the chaos that has engulfed the former U.S. ally after Shiite rebels overthrew the government.
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The commander in chief is unlikely to change his views, Mr. Gingrich said, adding that Republicans should be concerned about whether presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will follow on a similar path.
“Obama is a problem we currently have to endure, she could be four or eight years of worse,” he said.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin said he believes America has lacked extensive planning for most of the war on terror and is taking actions that will be damaging in the long term, including arming violent groups.
“Today, the administration refuses to recognize that this is a global jihad movement that is motivated by the tenants of Islam,” Mr. Boykin said. “We’ve been arming and equipping the very people that live by this theology, and we wind up getting those arms and equipment back like we did in Benghazi.”
Michael B. Mukasey, an attorney general under President George W. Bush, said the biggest problem is that violence has been accepted “as normal” by too much of the Muslim world.
“Until Muslims figure out how to deal with that in a way that allows them to live in peace and tolerance with the rest of us, the rest of us are going to have to take what action we can,” Mr. Mukasey said.