During a televised address Sunday about the mass shooting that occurred four days earlier in San Bernardino, Calif., President Obama made it clear that he considered the incident an “act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people” and described his approach to handling the ongoing threat. In outlining his strategy he urged caution on several fronts.

The president characterized San Bernardino assailants Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik as having gone down a “dark path of radicalization” prior to carrying out the attack that killed 14 people and wounded 21 others. But Obama emphasized that “so far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas, nor are they part of a broader conspiracy at home.”

That last point was likely to draw fire from the president’s critics who had been quicker to draw explicit links between the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting and Islamic State. Obama did go on to invoke the Islamist militant group several times throughout his speech as he sought to convince Americans, as well as his opponents, that he is prepared to handle this phase of the global conflict.

These are the kind of decisive, if unlikely, claims that presidents seem to need to make in such crisis moments, although the reasons for that necessity are not typically up for discussion on live television.

Before delving into his four-point plan, Obama situated the current moment in a broader historical context, stemming back to Sept. 11, 2001. “Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al-Qaida killed 3,000 Americans,” he said, touching on how law enforcement and intelligence operations have been “hardened” and how the terror threat has “evolved into a new phase” as recruitment strategies by militant organizations have reaped violent results, such as the Boston Marathon bombing and now the San Bernardino attack.

“I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists because I understand too well how real the danger is,” Obama said, defending his efficacy as commander in chief. Next came the inevitable, possibly untenable, salvo: “We will destroy [Islamic State] and any other organization that tries to harm us.”

The president’s scheme included the following components: First, he said, the U.S. military will “hunt down terrorist plotters” around the globe. Next, our military will continue to train and equip Iraqi and Syrian forces to help them combat terrorist operatives within their borders. Additionally, he said, the U.S. and its allies will work to cut off Islamic State’s finances and “prevent them from recruitment” — a job that will require “cooperating with Muslim allies and with communities at home to counter the vicious ideology that [Islamic State] promotes online.” Finally, Obama said, the U.S. and a coalition of some 65 countries — including Russia — will work out a timeline to resolve the war in Syria.

While he was at it, the president also outlined “several steps” that he said “Congress should take right away” to do its part. First in that series came the call to pass legislation, of the sort that Congress just voted down last week, to make it impossible for people on the no-fly list to purchase firearms. “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terror suspect to buy an automatic weapon?” Obama asked, completely aware of the answers his opponents have given to that question.

He continued his push, also advocating that the U.S. government “put in place stronger screening” standards, before he switched gears to point out what he believed “we should not do” in response to last week’s tragedy: “We should not be drawn once again into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria,” he said, warning that militant groups know that if the U.S. occupies their territory overseas “they can maintain insurgencies for years” and use the presence of the U.S. military to their advantage in recruitment efforts. Instead, Obama said he would continue the approach his administration has been pursuing, which he described as “airstrikes, special forces and working with local forces” that are working to reclaim their own nations.

In closing, Obama warned Americans not to turn on each other by defining this conflict as a fight against Islam at large. “[Islamic State] does not speak for Islam,” he said, bringing his focus to the domestic front in noting that “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, coworkers and sports heroes,” as well as members of the U.S. military.

And then came the white-hat finish. “We are on the right side of history,” Obama declared, inviting his audience to associate America’s origin story with his current moves on the global stage while viewing themselves, and him, as patriots and rejecting knee-jerk nationalism. “We were founded upon a belief in human dignity,” he said, and the country’s tradition is one in which inhabitants are “equal in the eyes of God” and “equal in the eyes of the law” — pushing back, perhaps, on recent rhetoric from right-leaning presidential candidates who would seek to expel certain immigrant groups. “Let us not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear,” he said.

In all, Obama’s speech contained few surprises and addressed not just the American people but his enemies abroad and at home, as well as the need to justify his actions in overseas wars both claimed and covert. His detractors will find cause to suggest he has already fallen short of the goals he described, but whatever criticism or support he might experience, the president and his words will no doubt be tested many times during his final months in office.

Watch President Obama’s full address below (via YouTube):

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