WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama vowed in the State of the Union address Tuesday to relentlessly hunt down terrorists from "Pakistan to the streets of Paris," then called on Congress to approve new war powers against Islamic State militants.
Obama argued that U.S. military leadership in Iraq and Syria is stopping the Islamic State's advance, but asked lawmakers "to show the world that we are united in this mission" with a war authorization vote. Republican lawmakers have said they are prepared to work with him to pass such a measure if he sends a proposal up to Capitol Hill.
Obama said America learned "some costly lessons" in the fight against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and they are guiding his approach to fight the Islamic State extremists.
"Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery. "We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed."
Obama said he believes in moving forward with "a smarter kind of American leadership" that combines military power with strong diplomacy. "That's how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve," Obama said.
"When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads, when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military, then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world," he said. "That's what our enemies want us to do."
Obama said the United States stands united with people who have been targeted by terrorists, mentioning attacks in recent weeks on a school in Pakistan and across Paris. "We will continue to hunt down terrorists and dismantle their networks, and we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we've done relentlessly since I took office, to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to us and our allies," Obama said.
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