The Long View of the Terrorist Threat

Dec 14, 2016

In his last scheduled national security address as president, Barack Obama spoke of the importance, as well as the limits, of military power in the fight against violent extremism. In order to counter terrorism most effectively, it is necessary, he said, “to take a long view of the terrorist threat, and…pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained.”

One key component, President Obama said, is “drawing on the strength of our diplomacy.” Terrorists, he noted, would love for us to withdraw from building international coalitions, which, over the past few years, have proved critically important:

“We’ve rolled back Iran’s nuclear program…We’ve secured nuclear materials around the globe, reducing the risk that they fall into the hands of terrorists. We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program. All of these steps have helped keep us safe and helped keep our troops safe. Those are the results of diplomacy.”

President Obama noted that the terrorists we are fighting in the Mideast and elsewhere claim to fight on behalf of Islam; but, he said, “They do not speak for over a billion Muslims around the world, and they do not speak for American Muslims, including many who wear the uniform of the United States of America’s military:”

“If we act like this is a war between the United States and Islam, we’re not just going to lose more Americans to terrorist attacks, but we’ll also lose sight of the very principles we claim to defend.”

The U.S., said President Obama, “is a nation where you are judged by the content of your character, rather than what you look like or how you worship or…where your family came from --that’s what separates us from tyrants and terrorists.”

Remembering that, and our commitment to freedom and our common creed that “right makes might, and not the other way around,” he said, “[t]hat’s how we can sustain this long struggle. That’s how we’ll protect this country.”