President Obama shot down solutions touted by GOP candidates for dealing with ISIS in the wake of the terror attacks in Brussels, including Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to "carpet bomb [ISIS] into oblivion."
Speaking at a joint news conference on Wednesday with Argentinian President Maurico Macri, Obama rejected the plans as "inhumane" and "counterproductive."
"When I hear someone say we should carpet bomb Iraq or Syria, not only is that inhumane, not only is that contrary to our values, but it would also be an extraordinary mechanism for ISIL to recruit more people willing to die, to explode a bomb in an airport, or in a metro station," Obama said, standing in the gilded hall of the Casa Rosada presidential palace in Buenos Aires. "That’s not a smart strategy."
Obama – who was on of a political tour of Latin America when multiple terror attacks in Brussels killed at least 31 people on Tuesday – went on to address other statements made by GOP candidates about ISIS and Muslim Americans.
"One of the great strengths in the U.S., and part of the reasons we have not seen more attacks is we have an extraordinarily successful, patriotic, integrated Muslim-American community," Obama said.
"So any approach that would single them out or target them for discrimination is
not only wrong and un-American," the president continued, "but it also would be counterproductive because it would reduce the strength, the antibodies we have to resist terrorism."
Obama also addressed suggestions by Cruz that law enforcement "patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S."
"I just left a country that engages in that kind of neighborhood surveillance," Obama said, referring to his historic trip to Cuba. The president also noted that Cuba was also the very country Cruz's father "escaped for America" from.
"The notion that we would start down that slippery slope makes absolutely no sense," Obama said. "It’s not who we are and it would not help us defeat ISIL."
Asked by a reporter to respond to criticism he got for attending an exhibition baseball game in Cuba on Tuesday in the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels, Obama reiterated that the world cannot respond to ISIS with fear.
It was a response reminiscent of speeches he gave following the November attacks in Paris – for which ISIS also claimed responsibility – and the Boston Marathon bombings.
"Groups like ISIL can’t destroy us, can’t defeat us...they’re not an existential threat to us," Obama said after a pensive pause. "Their primary power...is to strike fear in our societies, to disrupt our societies so that the affect cascades down from an explosion or an attack by a semi automatic rifle.
"It is very important for us to not respond with fear," he continued. "We [need to] send a message to those who might be inspired by [ISIS] saying you are not going to change our values of liberty and openness and respect to all people."
He noted Boston's reaction to the 2013 attacks, calling it one of his "proudest moments as president."
"They taught America a lesson," he said. "They grieved...but a few days later, folks were out shopping, a few days later folks were in that baseball stadium singing the national anthem."
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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