Transcript: The Future of our Fight against Terrorism


Success on all these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures that there is -- that's true for Democrats and Republicans; I've seen the polling -- even though it amounts to less than 1 percent of the federal budget. In fact, a lot of folks think it's 25 percent if you ask people on the streets. Less than 1 percent; still, wildly unpopular.

But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and it's fundamental to any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan and creating reservoirs of good will that marginalize extremists.

That has to be part of our strategy.

Moreover, America cannot carry out this work if we don't have diplomats serving in some very dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened security at our embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of the Accountability Review Board, which found unacceptable failures in Benghazi. I've called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to bolster security and harden facilities, improve intelligence and facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis emerges.

But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world's most powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab world. And in balancing the trade-offs between security and active diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers we face in the long run. And that's why we should be grateful to those diplomats who are willing to serve there.

Targeted action against terrorists, effective partnerships, diplomatic engagement and assistance -- through such a comprehensive strategy, we can significantly reduce the chances of large-scale attacks on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. But as we guard against dangers from abroad, we cannot neglect the daunting challenge of terrorism from within our borders.

As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency, and in some cases its lethality.

Today a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda and learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat, two years ago my administration did a comprehensive review and engaged with law enforcement. And the best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadists is to work with the Muslim American community, which has consistently rejected terrorism, to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.

And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. In fact, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say that we're at war with Islam.

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