Amid rising fears of ISIS, Obama must reassure

As President Obama prepares to give the final State of the Union address of his presidency tonight, he’s promised to stay away from the technocrat’s laundry list of to-do’s. Instead, he’s expected to deliver a speech that will remind his fellow citizens of their ability to “come together as one American family.” It’s going to be a tough sell, especially when the citizens are terrified of outsiders and suspicious of one another.

Most of the fear and paranoia revolves around the Islamic State group. Although the group poses far less of a threat to the United States than to our allies and friends in Europe and the Middle East, it is the sum of all fears in the minds of many Americans—an immigrant, terrorist, cyber, WMD, genocidal threat rolled into one. Its name alone can be invoked to indict Obama’s national security and immigration policies—substantive criticisms are unnecessary.

[T]he Islamic State group…is the sum of all fears in the minds of many Americans.

Most of those fears are overblown, but the president will want to tackle them each of them in his speech if he intends to calm fears and bring people together. He’ll explain why taking in refugees is not just living up to American values but also smart counterterrorism. He’ll showcase evidence that the military campaign against the Islamic State in the Middle East is bearing fruit. He’ll reassure Americans that the Islamic State can’t plant a skilled operative into this country and remind them that the best way to stop the unskilled lone wolf shooters inspired by the Islamic State is to close gun loop holes and monitor their behavior online before they act. He’ll demonstrate his commitment to blunting Islamic State recruitment, touting changes to how the government counters the Islamic State’s appeal online and in America’s big cities.

All of that is well and good, but it’s a bureaucrat’s (or think tanker’s) effort at reassuring the public. To truly succeed in mitigating America’s fears and bringing citizens together, our country’s leader has to acknowledge that their fears are real and explain what our enemies hope to gain by engendering them. While Americans’ fears may be overblown, they won’t be deflated by technocratic hot air.