Friday, July 10, 2015

Quotable: President Obama on "this larger battle for hearts and minds"

Donald M. Bishop,

Wednesday, July 8th 2015
In comments at the Pentagon on July 6, 2015, President Obama addressed "progress in the fight against ISIL."  The President said "our comprehensive strategy" uses all the elements of national power -- military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development, and "perhaps most importantly, the power of our values."  The whole text is worth reading.  Comments that bear on diplomacy, public diplomacy, "hearts and minds," a "generational struggle," "hateful propaganda," "twisted thinking," and ideologies are cited below.  "Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they’re defeated by better ideas -- a more attractive and more compelling vision," the President said.

The Pentagon, July 6, 2015, 4:10 P.M. EDT

* * * * * Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power, across our government -- military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and perhaps most importantly, the power of our values.  * * * * * I want to start by repeating what I’ve said since the beginning.  This will not be quick.  This is a long-term campaign.  * * * * *  ISIL is backed by no nation.  It relies on fear, sometimes executing its own disillusioned fighters.  Its unrestrained brutality often alienates those under its rule, creating new enemies.  * * * * * 

Now, all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort -- political and economic -- that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction.  They have filled a void, and we have to make sure that as we push them out that void is filled.  So, as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we’re working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need.  * * * * *

While the focus of our discussions today was on Iraq and Syria, ISIL and its ideology also obviously pose a grave threat beyond the region.  * * * * So I’ve called on the international community to unite against this scourge of violent extremism.  * * * * * 

Now, I think it's important for us to recognize the threat of violent extremism is not restricted to any one community.  Here in the United States, we’ve seen all kinds of homegrown terrorism.  And tragically, recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to dangerous weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans.  So our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background, including patriotic Muslim Americans who are our partners in keeping our country safe. * * * * *

It's also true why, ultimately, in order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda it's going to also require us to discredit their ideology -- the twisted thinking that draws vulnerable people into their ranks.  As I’ve said before -- and I know our military leaders agree -- this broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort.  Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they’re defeated by better ideas -- a more attractive and more compelling vision. 

So the United States will continue to do our part, by working with partners to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online.  We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam.  We’re fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims.  But around the world, we’re also going to insist on partnering with Muslim communities as they seek security, prosperity and the dignity that they deserve.  And we're going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can, in conjunction with other people of goodwill, against these hateful ideologies in order to discredit them more effectively, particularly when it comes to what we're teaching young people.  

And this larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle.  It's ultimately not going to be won or lost by the United States alone.  It will be decided by the countries and the communities that terrorists like ISIL target.  It’s going to be up to Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, to keep rejecting warped interpretations of Islam, and to protect their sons and daughters from recruitment.  It will be up to all people -- leaders and citizens -- to reject the sectarianism that so often fuels the resentments and conflicts upon which terrorists are currently thriving.  It will be up to governments to address the political and economic grievances that terrorists exploit. 

Nations that empower citizens to decide their own destiny, that uphold human rights for all their people, that invest in education and create opportunities for their young people -- those can be powerful antidotes to extremist ideologies.  Those are the countries that will find a true partner in the United States. * * * * *

Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult.  It will take time.  There will be setbacks as well as progress.  But as President and Commander-in-Chief, I want to say to all our men and women in uniform who are serving in this operation -- our pilots, the crews on the ground, our personnel not only on the ground but at sea, our intelligence teams and our diplomatic teams -- I want to thank you.  We are proud of you, and you have my total confidence that you’re going to succeed.  * * * * *

We also have to remind ourselves that the reason we have the best military in the world is, first and foremost, because we've got the best troops in history.  But it's also because we've got a strong economy, and we've got a well-educated population.  And we've got an incredible research operation and universities that allow us to create new products that then can be translated into our military superiority around the world.  We short-change those, we're going to be less secure.  

So the way we have to look at this budget is to recognize that, A, we can't think short term, we've got to think long term; and B, part of our national security is making sure that we continue to have a strong economy and that we continue to make the investments that we need in things like education and research that are going to be vital for us to be successful long term.  * * * * *

One of the principles that we all agree on, though, and I pressed folks pretty hard because in these conversations with my military advisors I want to make sure I'm getting blunt and unadultered [sic] uncensored advice.  * * * * *

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