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Obama: 'We will degrade & destroy ISIS'
02:18 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

On many levels, this is a turnaround for Obama

One analyst believes it's a speech he didn't want to give

Hertling: It will present real issues for the military

CNN  — 

When President Obama announced his plan Wednesday night to launch air strikes in Syria against ISIS, he opened a new chapter in the American war on Islamic extremism. Click here to get all the facts on President Obama’s speech to the nation on his new strategy to combat ISIS with air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Or click here to read the transcript.

Below are some key themes identified by CNN’s military and political commentators and reporters:

It is a stunning turnaround from his previous policy - This new strategy represents a turnaround by President Obama on so many levels; there are things the President refused to do that that he is now doing. He had said he would not arm Syrian rebels. He had said there would be no air strikes in Syria. Now the President says the U.S. and its coalition will hunt down ISIS wherever it may be. But it is important to note that the President never used the word ‘war.’ He calls this a counter-terror operation - Jim Sciutto - CNN Chief National Security Correspondent

Related: Sen. John McCain has showdown with Jay Carney over Obama speech on CNN

It was a speech the president did not want to give - Let’s take a step back. This is a speech the President never intended to give, didn’t want to give, and has been ambivalent about what he ought to do. This is a President whose narrative was killing Osama bin Laden and ending two wars. What he did tonight when he stepped up to the microphone, he essentially said, “I am going to get involved in large airstrikes over two countries in a conflict that could well outlast his administration. There is no end point to this.” I think for the president tonight, this was a very difficult speech for him to give. - Gloria Borger - CNN Chief Political Analyst

Related: Strong reaction to Obama statement ‘ISIL is not Islamic’

Enacting Obama’s vision presents real issues for the military - I put myself in the position of my friend, Gen. Lloyd Austin, Combatant Commander, Central Command. What is he hearing right now? I think what Gen. Austin hears was, “Let me get this straight. You want me to expand operations into a country that is having a civil war, where we don’t like the leader of the country. We’re expanding operations in a country that is still having a religious war and has a little bit of turmoil in their government. You’re are asking me to train more forces, bring potentially a 40-member coalition together and conduct air strikes where I don’t hurt innocents.” - CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army, ret.

Related: As Obama prepares for ISIS fight, where are the doves?

Obama was candid about the risks to Americans and the military - The President was candid about the threat of ISIS, the long term nature of the challenge and the risks of military action. Using Yemen and Somalia as examples of the fight against terrorism is understandable given the unpopularity of Iraq/Afghanistan, but critics were quick to say ISIS is a bigger, more complex challenge. More than anything, long term success relies on players that for years have proven unreliable: the Iraqi government, the Syrian opposition and regional partners, like the Saudis. - John King, CNN Chief National Correspondent

It strangely threw in a pitch for the American economy - I thought the first part of the speech as he talked about the attack on ISIS was strong and presidential and serious. You could quibble with it, I am sure there will be disagreements. But as a presidential speech, it did very well. What surprised me was the second part of the speech when he started to talk about how well the country is doing with jobs and leading around the world. I think for an awful lot of people, America is feeling pretty blue right now. I think those kind of assertions don’t ring true to a lot of people. It seemed to me it detracted from the main message of the speech. - David Gergen - CNN commentator and former adviser to presidents from both political parties

Round-up: Did Obama sell his ISIS strategy?