Conservative media figures criticized the Obama administration for suggesting terrorism is tied to poverty, ignoring the fact that former President George W. Bush also explicitly cited alleviating poverty as a fundamental tool to fighting terrorism.
State Department Cites Economic Opportunity As Key To Fighting Root Causes Of Terrorism
State Department Spokesperson: Defeating Terrorism Requires Multifaceted Approach That Includes Building Economic Opportunity. Appearing on the February 16 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf explained to host Chris Matthews that the U.S.'s strategy to defeating the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) would require more than just “dropping bombs,” but also includes dismantling “the root causes that leads people to join” radical groups, such as lack of opportunity (emphasis added):
MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?
HARF: We`re killing a lot of them, and we`re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians. So are the Jordanians. They`re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need, in the longer term -- medium and longer term, to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it`s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether--
MATTHEWS: We`re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime, or 50 lifetimes! There`s always going to be poor people. There`s always going to be poor Muslims. And as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet`s blowing! They`ll join. We can`t stop that, can we?
HARF: Well, we can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people. [MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2/16/15, via Nexis]
Conservative Media Attack Observation As “Ignorant,” “Deranged,” “Sickening”
Sean Hannity: State Dept. Comments Were “One Of The Most Ignorant And Misguided Of The Entire Obama Presidency.” On the February 17 edition of his radio program The Sean Hannity Show, Fox News host Sean Hannity attacked State Department Spokesperson Harf's comments, calling it “one of the most ignorant and misguided of the Obama presidency”:
HANNITY: The State Department is saying we can't win this war by killing them. We can't kill our way out of this war. We need in the longer to term to go after the root causes. So we're going to have a physiological analysis of why people believe in an evil ideology. Is that how you would handle Hitler, Tojo's Japan, or Stalin, Pol Pot in the killing fields. Because we lost 100 million human souls in the last century alone. So I guess, maybe, if we just try and get every terrorist a job and provide a better way of life, maybe we should put them on our food stamp program next. We have 50 million Americans, I mean there's room for plenty more. We'll just tax the American people to pay for it. We'll be buying our peace in our time. That's what we'll do. We've learned nothing from history. Can't kill our way out of the war, we need longer term. Go after the root causes of what leads people to join these groups. Whether it's lack of opportunity for jobs. Like seriously, now that has to take the lead, that seriously, for the dumbest statement I've ever heard, even from this administration. One of the most ignorant and misguided of the entire Obama presidency, which is saying a lot. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 2/17/15]
Rush Limbaugh: Harf's Comments Were “Left-Wing, Sickening” Cliches. On the February 17 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh described Harf's comments as “sickening cliches”:
LIMBAUGH: So, ISIS is on the march, on the way to their caliphate. They are committing acts of barbarism that this administration will not even identify, will not even refer to it as terrorism. And now they send their spokesbabe out from the State Department to say, well we cannot kill our way out of this war with ISIS. We're going to have to get at the root cause. We're going to have to find them jobs. We're going to have to find a way to economically empower them. And every left-wing syrupy embarrassingly sickening cliche that you can conjure that you've ever heard is being articulated by this administration. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/17/15]
Wall Street Journal's James Taranto: Remarks Are Part Of Obama Administration's Strategy Of “Thoroughgoing Dishonesty.” In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, James Taranto cited Harf's remarks as evidence of the administration's commitment to “thoroughgoing dishonestly”:
As funny as it is, it also feels a bit unsporting to pick on Harf like this. After all, she's just doing her job, which is to act as a mouthpiece for an administration whose guiding principle seems to be that political correctness--which is to say, a thoroughgoing dishonesty--is the best weapon for dealing with Islamic terrorism. [The Wall Street Journal, 2/17/15]
But President Bush Similarly Acknowledged That Alleviating Poverty Is Integral To Fighting Terrorism
President George W. Bush In 2002: “We Fight Against Poverty Because Hope Is An Answer To Terror.” In a 2002 speech to the UN International Conference on Financing for Development, President George W. Bush addressed the need to confront poverty as a driving force of radicalization, calling it a condition "that terrorists can seize and try to turn to their advantage:
BUSH: Many here today have devoted their lives to the fight against global poverty, and you know the stakes. We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror. We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity. We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it. And we fight against poverty with a growing conviction that major progress is within our reach.
We will challenge the poverty and hopelessness and lack of education and failed governments that too often allow conditions that terrorists can seize and try to turn to their advantage. [President George W. Bush's Remarks To The International Conference on Financing for Development, United Nations, 3/22/02]
Bush In 2005: “We Must Help Raise Up The Failing States” That Lack Economic Opportunity, Because They “Provide Fertile Ground For The Terrorists.” In a 2005 speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Bush laid out a framework for defeating global terrorism explaining that the fight would not “be won by force of arms alone,” but rather with targeted attacks on the roots causes of terrorism. Bush called on nations to “spread the vision of hope” in the fight against terrorism to help countries struggling with poverty:
BUSH: Yet we know that this war will not be won by force of arms alone. We must defeat the terrorists on the battlefield and we must also defeat them in the battle of ideas.
We must change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit by spreading the hope of freedom to millions who've never known it. We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists. We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity and opportunity and prosperity, a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder.
To spread the vision of hope the United States is determined to help nations that are struggling with poverty. [The New York Times, 9/14/05]