Congressman criticizes U.S. leadership in handling Islamic State group

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U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said leadership in the U.S. is not effectively solving issues in the Middle East at an intelligence conference held in the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Saturday.

“America has invited aggression by stepping back from the world stage,” said McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

UT’s Clements Center for History, Strategy and Statecraft and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law hosted the “Intelligence Reform and Counterterrorism after a Decade: Are We Smarter and Safer?” conference to look back at the 10 years since the passing of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which restructured U.S. intelligence. McCaul gave the closing address Saturday about what he still believes are threats to national security, as well as what should be done in the future.

“The lack of leadership has fueled the rise of extremists and terrorist safe havens,” said McCaul, who is currently serving his fifth term representing Texas’ 10th District in the U.S. Congress.

McCaul said he believes the Obama administration is falling behind in national security and foreign relations. He said in 2013, weeks after President Barack Obama declared that the “War on Terrorism” was over, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of the Islamic State group.

“The rise of ISIS should have come to no surprise, and was certainly not to me,” McCaul said. 

According to McCaul, the creation of reforms, such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and National Counterterrorism Center, identified the Islamic State group as a threat more than a year ago.

Greater stability in the Middle East is the only way to combat the radical ideologies of Islam, according to McCaul, who also said the “moderate Muslim” ideology is the most effective tool in combating extremists.

“I think it is a little naïve to think that we can take a Jeffersonian democracy and put it in to some of these Middle Eastern countries,” McCaul said.

Plan II senior Mark Jbeily, who attended the conference, said he believes that threats such as the “War on Terror” have been distracting the U.S. from missed opportunities outside of the Middle East.

“The entire time that I’ve been politically aware of the world, its been the ‘War on Terror,’ it’s been Islamic extremism [and] it’s been trying to combat all of that,” said Jbeily, a member of ROTC and Clements Undergraduate Fellow. “The Middle East is an issue we’re just going to have to deal with. I don’t think we’re ever going to solve it, especially in our lifetime.”