Transcript: The Future of our Fight against Terrorism

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Of course, the targeting of any American raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes, which is why my administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed and briefed the Congress before this strike as well.

But the high threshold that we've set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life.

Alongside the decision to put our men and women in uniform in harm's way, the decision to use force against individuals or groups, even against a sworn enemy of the United States, is the hardest thing I do as president. But these decisions must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people.

Now, going forward, I've asked my administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of war zones that go beyond our reporting to Congress.

Each option has virtues in theory but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority.

Another idea that's been suggested, the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch, avoids those problems but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national security decision-making without inspiring additional public confidence in the process.

But despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these and other options for increased oversight.

I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion we need to have about a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root. And in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war through drones or special forces or troop deployments will prove self- defeating and alter our country in troubling ways.

So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North Africa to South Asia. As we've learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep-rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred. And moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and our values demand that we make the effort.

This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremism. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements, because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism.

We are actively working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education and encourage entrepreneurship because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with peoples' hopes and not simply their fears.

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