President Obama declared “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they’re defeated by better ideas” and that investing in education is one of many things that can be a “powerful” counter to “extremist ideologies” in a speech at the Pentagon on Monday.
After talking about the US’ military policy to fight ISIS, Obama remarked, “Now all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military 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, and we continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that invites all the people of Iraq. … In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end…is an inclusive political transition to a new government without Bashar Assad, a government that serves all Syrians.”
Later, he added, “ultimately, in order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda, — is 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 who’s victims are mostly Muslims.”
Obama continued, “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 generational struggle. It’s ultimately not going to be lost or won by the United States alone, it will be decided by the countries and 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 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.”
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