Biden: Islamic State does not pose ‘an existential threat’
Vice President Biden warned on Monday of the perils of a domestic overreaction to the attacks that left 129 dead in Paris, saying the terrorist organization behind the assault does not pose “an existential threat” to the United States. In his first public remarks since the Friday attacks attributed to the Islamic State in Syria, Biden cautioned that “the moment we give in and change anything about the openness of our society is the moment they win.”
The vice president spoke at the beginning of a roundtable on clean-technology entrepreneurship in Los Angeles. Appearing alongside L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden urged democratic countries to resist the impulse to crack down on immigration and the free flow of information in the ISIS attack’s aftermath. He said the group’s tactics are calculated to provoke Western nations to indiscriminately mistreat or attack Muslims, adding that such a strategy “cannot work if we don’t let it work.”
“ISIS will not prevail. It offers nothing but destruction. It offers nothing but twisted ideology that is not sustainable,” he said. “Terror is designed to inspire terror. And we lose, they win, the moment we give in to that terror.”
Sylvain Perriot stops to take a picture of the flag at half mast above the Presidential Palace in Paris. France’s Sate of Emergency will continue, with flags at half mast.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Looking inside the courtyard of the Presidential Palace, guards stand at attention for the departure of Secretary of State John Kerry after his meeting with French President Francois Hollande.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
On the third day of national mourning, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the colors of the French flag after going dark.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
On the third day of national mourning, people continue to gather in public places like the Place de la Republique, including Tao Cisse, age 5, and Maya Sutej.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
People observe a minute of silence in front of the Le Carillon cafe in Paris on Nov. 16, paying tribute to victims of the terror attacks.(Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images)
Paris residents take part in a Nov. 16 moment of silence under the Eiffel Tower in observance of those who died during the terrorist attacks three days earlier.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
French President Francois Hollande, center, stands with government officials to observe a minute of silence Nov. 16 at the Sorbonne University in Paris.(Stephane De Sakutin / AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the French Foreign Legion stand guard near the Eiffel Tower on Nov. 16.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A Paris shopkeeper stays inside Sunday as soldiers guard the street where she works.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A sign that reads ‘Not even afraid’ is draped on the statue on Republique plaza in Paris.(Ian Langsdon / European Pressphoto Agency)
Women run past French soldiers as panic spread through the streets of Paris when rumors spread of another possible terrorist attack, which turned out to be a car left running in the street.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
French police have released a photo of Abdeslam Salah, a 26-year-old sought in connection with the Paris attacks.(National Police)
Prelates arrive to celebrate a Mass in memory of the attack victims at the Notre Dame cathedral.(LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP/Getty Images)
An emotional crowd gathers in front of Le Carillon restaurant.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The glasses and silverware remain on the table where bullets were fired at Cafe Bonne Biere.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Armed police stand guard Nov. 14 near the Eiffel Tower, which was kept dark in honor of those who died in the terrorist attacks.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Mourners place flowers and candles outside the Bataclan theater in Paris.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A woman is evacuated from the Bataclan theater after the shootings in Paris.(Thibault Camus / Associated Press)
People lie on the pavement near the Cafe Bonne Biere in Paris following a series of attacks.(ANTHONY DORFMANN / AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers evacuate people following an attack in Paris, where there were also reports of an ongoing hostage crisis at a concert venue.(Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP/Getty Images)
A victim lays dead under a blanket outside the Bataclan theater in Paris.(Jerome Delay / AP)
Hundreds of people spilled onto the field of the Stade de France stadium after explosions were heard nearby during a match between the French and German national soccer teams.(Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
Biden added “there will be a tendency, both here and in Europe, to talk about closing down borders.” That tendency is already on dramatic display in the U.S., where some Republican officials say they will seek to ban the immigration of refugees from Syria’s civil war.
The vice president said acting on such reflexes would be a mistake, asserting that ISIS was incapable on its own of seriously menacing the U.S.
“I say to the American people: There is no existential threat to the United States,” Biden said. “Nothing ISIS can do could bring down the government, could threaten the way we live.”
Biden’s appearance in L.A. came as the White House was enduring fresh rounds of criticism of its foreign policy in the wake of the Paris killings.
Such criticism was fueled anew by the president’s assertion that ISIS was “contained” in a television interview the day before the Paris assault. The comment has drawn rebukes even from some Democrats – including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who on Monday told Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC that ISIS is “not contained” and “is expanding.”
In remarks to reporters after Monday’s event, Biden defended the administration’s handling of the fight against ISIS.
“The truth is, there has been progress made against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “They have 25% less geography they occupy now... It’s going to take a long time. There’s a lot of work to do.”
He acknowledged the Paris attacks would likely lead to changes in the U.S. approach to combating ISIS.
For example, Biden said he foresaw greater coordination with European and NATO allies going forward.
“It will change the strategy. It hasn’t changed the way we think about ISIS,” he said of the Paris assault. “What you will see now, I predict, is considerably more cooperation and intelligence-sharing with our European friends, who were for a while reluctant to do that. And I think you’ll see a more concentrated effort among our NATO allies and members of the E.U. to deal with ISIS in the Middle East.”
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