Harf on Jobs For Terrorists Comment: Argument May Be "Too Nuanced" For Some; Bush Said It Too


State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf elaborates on comments she made about potential terrorists and job opportunities on Monday's broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball. Harf said we must "go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs." Harf appeared on CNN's The Situation Room on Tuesday to discuss.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: You said that the U.S. cannot kill our way out of this war, that the U.S. needs to go after the root causes that lead these young men, mostly men, some women, to go and join ISIS or al Qaeda or Al-Shabaab or these terrorist groups. Give us a little perspective on what you were talking about.

MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: Well, absolutely. I'm not the first person to say something like this. Military commanders that we've had throughout many years here fighting this war on terrorism have said the exact same thing, that in the short term when there's a threat like ISIL, we will take direct military action against these terrorists. We have done that. We are doing that in Iraq and in Syria.

But longer term, we have to look at how we combat the conditions that can lead people to turn to extremism. If you think about, you know, if there's a radical jihadi on the internet who is putting out hateful videos, that's powerful and dangerous, right? But if there are 10,000 men in a country who are willing to blow themselves up because of what that person says on the internet, that's much more dangerous. So how do you get to those 10,000 people? How do you get them not to pick up the AK-47 and instead do something more productive and positive in their life? That's what we're trying to get at in this summit, looking at the long-term problem, not just the short-term one.

BLITZER: So you suggest that maybe if you find these young men jobs, they might not become terrorists, right?

HARF: Well, I think that's a gross oversimplification. What we talked about is there's things like good governance in countries, where if there is not good governance, it can create a vacuum or a space for terrorist organizations to recruit and get people to their cause. We've seen that in Libya. That's a perfect example right now. Where there's a lack of governance, you've had young men attracted to this terrorist cause where there aren't other opportunities. We've seen this in a number of places around the Middle East and around the world. Unfortunately, people turn to terrorism sometimes. So how do you get at that root causes? That's really the bigger point of this week's summit.

BLITZER: But you know, of course, some of the best-known terrorists out there came from wealth and privilege, with higher education, degrees, whether Mohamed Atta or bin Laden himself.

HARF: Absolutely. And, look, countering violent extremism it takes on a variety of different ways that you can do that here. Part of it is military, absolutely. We are taking direct action against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. But look, if we looked around the world and say long-term we cannot kill every terrorist around the world nor should we try, how do you get at the root causes of this? Look, it might be too nuanced of an argument for some like I've seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out but it's really the smart way for Democrats, for Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat it.

BLITZER: Just to be precise I want to give you a chance to respond to some of the critics who have been out there. You say it's important to find these guys jobs so they don't become terrorists. Explain what you meant.

HARF: Where there are places around the world where there's a lack of governance, a lack of economic opportunity. President George W. Bush talked about poverty being one of the drivers leading people to extremism. Where they are lacking in these kinds of opportunities, we need to talk about how to make that different, how to help our partners around the world give young men in that vulnerable age group a different path in life. Show them that there's a different chance for them than joining a terrorist organization. Again, it's one part of it, Wolf, but this is really a comprehensive way of looking how to combat extremism and it's not one that fits into a sound bite sometimes as I've seen over the last 24 hours but it's a really important piece of this.

Show commentsHide Comments

Latest Political Videos

Video Archives