WASHINGTON -- Petrified about the prospect of a domestic terrorist attack? This round of Sunday shows was not for you.
The common theme on all channels was that the United States was quite vulnerable to an attack from the Islamic State, the militant group also called ISIS. In terms graver than any point since the Sunni extremist organization began taking over large swaths of western Iraq, guests outlined the perils of inaction. Visions of another 9/11 were laid out on several occasions, as was the case that the United States needed to act aggressively abroad -- perhaps even within Syria.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) summarized the mood when she declared that “a containment strategy is not going to cut it.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) drove home the point when he said the defeat of ISIS would require putting “some Americans” -- mainly special force operatives -- “in danger.”
It wasn’t just fear-mongering by the president’s more hawkish critics. Even Obama’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said ISIS is “beyond anything we’ve seen” and poses a "9/11-level threat" to the U.S.
Instead, the Sunday shows proved just how quickly a consensus has taken hold within the foyers of power (the drums are beating loudly) and how limited the president’s political flexibility will be in the coming weeks.
Here is a sampling from Sunday.
'FOX NEWS SUNDAY'
Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane on whether U.S. forces would need to return to the region:
We have been dribbling in trainers and advisers that we have all been observing. And we have got hundreds there. ... Some of the Iraqi army, as we know, has to be reconstituted. So the fact of the matter is, our forces on the ground, not in a combat role, except for the special operators, they would I think number in the thousands. That’s realistic.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):
There will be some Americans in danger, particularly our Special Forces people. But look at the alternative, and that's what has to be explained to the American people. And I believe the American people will follow.
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward:
This is kind of a moment for Obama where I think in this case McCain had it exactly right.
GOP strategist Karl Rove on what the administration has done so far against ISIS:
Ninety-four airstrikes, 61 of them against targets around the Mosul dam, is not a long-term comprehensive strategy.
Woodward, referencing how Mohamed Atta was able to organize the 9/11 attacks with roughly $400,000:
I hate to go back to 9/11, but it is a critical turning point here. … If you have a very aggressive, unfortunately talented, middle-manager like that, you can do something very, very serious. And everyone says ISIS has got more money and has this vengeance push.
ABC 'THIS WEEK'
Four-star Gen. John Allen, the former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan:
It requires a comprehensive approach to strike ISIS throughout the entire network of its operation. Some of that is in Iraq, but a lot of that, particularly the support areas, are in Syria. ... It is going to take more than what we are doing right now. There is just no question to this.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), House Homeland Security Committee chair:
I do think they present the greatest threat we've seen since 9/11. This has been festering for the last year, and now it's culminating with the killing and the beheading of an American journalist, which I think is a turning point. ... They are very intent on not only establishing the caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but expanding that to external operations not only in Europe, but they would love more than nothing else to hit the United States of America.
I would far prefer to eliminate them over here than have to deal with them in the United States. Their focus right now is on establishing the caliphate. But don’t kid yourself for a second. They are intent on hitting the West. And there are external operations, I believe, underway.
'MEET THE PRESS'
Host Chris Jansing with guest Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
Jansing: We've heard the Pentagon say that, right now, they are not in a position to launch an attack on the United States. Is there any credible intelligence that ISIS is either planning that or has the capability to do it?
Rogers: Well, I'm going to dispute that. So we know that, and the number 2,000 of [ISIS members who are] Westerners with Western passports is low. Intelligence has a very different number, and it's much higher than that. And the very fight between al Qaeda that allowed ISIS to separate from al Qaeda in Syria was the fact that they wanted to conduct Western-style operations.
'FACE THE NATION'
Bob Orr, CBS national security correspondent:
Make no mistake, over time, with enough space and planning, this could become the most significant terror threat we've ever faced in this country. Short-term, the assessment is maybe they could inspire somebody to do something. You know, kind of a one-off, home grown-type inspired attack. But over time, since they have Western recruits. That’s a key point: They could put together a big plot that could rival something like 9/11, that's what we're really trying to stop.
Former CIA Director Mike Morell:
This is the most complex terrorism problem I have ever seen. There are no magic bullets. This is going to take a long time to get under control.
Over the long-term -- two and a half, three years -- we need to worry about a 9/11 style attack by ISIS.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.):
If we don’t deal with this threat now, thoroughly and convincingly, it is going to come home to roost.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.):
And what I think is that a containment strategy is not going to cut it. We need a strategy to defeat ISIS.
CNN 'STATE OF THE UNION'
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
It's about time now to assume the worst about these guys, rather than to underestimating them. They're not the J.V. team anymore.
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