A day after saying "we don't have a strategy yet" to deal with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants, President Barack Obama on Friday sought to downplay concerns that terrorists and other international crises posed a greater threat to the U.S. than those during the Cold War.
Speaking at a private Democratic fundraiser in Purchase, N.Y., the president told donors, "if you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart ... And I can see why a lot of folks are troubled."
But, Obama said, despite recent unrest in the Middle East, Russia's apparent invasion of Ukraine, and the explosive growth of ISIS, "the truth of the matter is, is that the world has always been messy."
"In part, we're just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through," the president told donors, who paid up to $32,400 a plate to attend the event. "The good news is that American leadership has never been more necessary, and there's really no competition out there for the ideas and the values that can create the sort of order that we need in this world."
His remarks came hours after the British government raised its terror threat level to "severe" as a result of militant activity in Iraq and Syria, meaning it is "highly likely" there will be a terrorist attack on UK soil.
"What we are facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater threat to our security than we have seen before," UK Prime Minister David Cameron said. "Poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism is the root cause of the terror threat," he continued.
Obama has faced criticism since telling reporters at a press conference Thursday "we don't have a strategy yet" to combat ISIS fighters in Syria, prompting Republicans to slam the president's foreign policy approach as the White House frantically tried to change the message.
"I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago," Obama said Friday. "This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War."