Our beleaguered friend Marie Harf took a lot of grief (here and here) for saying that what ISIS really needs is a good jobs program. Unfortunately, her boss said something similar yesterday in his speech at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (Without Ever Calling It by Name).
Now comes Secretary of State John Kerry, who makes the same points today a piece in the Wall Street Journal. I give you a snippet of the Kerry oped (with the helpful highlighting added by the Weekly Standard):
Eliminating the terrorists of today with force will not guarantee protection from the terrorists of tomorrow. We have to transform the environments that give birth to these movements. We have to devote ourselves not just to combating violent extremism, but to preventing it. This means building alternatives that are credible and visible to the populations where terrorists seek to thrive.
The most basic issue is good governance. It may not sound exciting, but it is vital. People who feel that their government will provide for their needs, not just its own, and give them a chance at a better life are far less likely to strap on an AK-47 or a suicide vest, or to aid those who do.
We must identify the zones of greatest vulnerability, the places that could descend into the chaos that breeds terrorism—or that could turn the corner and be the hotbed of growth or innovation. And then we must tailor our efforts and target our resources to meet the specific needs of those places. It may be training young people so they can get jobs and envision a future of dignity and self-reliance. It may be working to eliminate corruption and promote the rule of law, so that marginalized communities can enjoy security and justice. It’s very likely both, and of course much more.
That sounds like a whole lotta government, predicated on the by no means proven notion that poverty is the primary incubator of terrorism by Islamic extremists. Some would argue that Islamic extremism is a more important factor in creating Islamic extremists. As for the poverty angle, please see “Oops: The Poorest Countries in the World Don’t Have Exceptional Levels of Terrorism.” CNS also has a good piece on the non-link between poverty and terrorism. Yet Obama administration is so committed to a Great Society form of supposedly fighting ISIS that we are not backing Egypt’s attacks on ISIS.