Obama: We Should Stop "Overinflating" Importance Of Terror Groups As If "They Are An Existential Threat" To U.S.

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN: Others say that you downplay the importance of terrorism. You want to downgrade it as a threat to the United States.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Why -- look, I have to talk to the families of those who are killed by terrorists. I have to talk to the families of soldiers of ours who fought to make sure al Qaeda and the Fatah couldn't carry out attacks against us again. So I think I'm pretty mindful of the terrible costs of terrorism around the world.

What I do insist on is that we maintain a proper perspective and that we do not provide a victory to these terrorist networks by overinflating their importance and suggesting in some fashion that they are an existential threat to the United States or the world order. You know, the truth of the matter is that they can do harm. But we have the capacity to control how we respond in ways that do not undercut what's the -- you know, what's essence of who we are.

That means that we don't torture, for example, and thereby undermine our values and credibility around the world. It means that we don't approach this with a strategy of sending out occupying armies and playing Whac-A-Mole wherever a terrorist group appears because that drains our economic strength and it puts enormous burdens on our military.

What's required is a surgical, precise response to a very specific problem. And if we do that effectively, then ultimately these terrorist organizations will be defeated because they don't have a vision that appeals to ordinary people. It is -- it really is, as has been described in some cases, a death cult, or an entirely backward looking fantasy that can't function in the world.

When you look at ISIL, it has no governing strategy. It can talk about sitting up the new caliphate but nobody is under any illusions that they can actually, you know, sustain or feed people or educate people or organize a society that would work. And so we can't give them the victory of overinflating what they do, and we can't make the mistake of being reactive to them. We have to have a precise strategy in terms of how to defeat them.

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