After being roundly mocked for arguing that what we really need to do to combat ISIS is to give them jobs, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf appeared on Wolf Blitzer Tuesday night to defended herself. Pointing out that she’s “not the first person” to make the argument, Harf told Blitzer that her “smart” strategy just “might be too nuanced an argument for some.”
During an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Harf said “we cannot kill our way out of this war,” and that the “medium to longer term” strategy for fighting ISIS is to get at its “root causes that leads people to joint these groups,” one of which she said is a “lack of opportunity for jobs.
After 24 hours of being hammered online and on the airwaves, Harf appeared on Blitzer’s “The Situation Room” to defend herself and the response of the adminstration:
Harf: 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’ll take direct military action against these terrorists. We have done that. We are doing that in Iraq and 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?
Blitzer pressed her more on the point, asking, ”So you suggested that maybe if you find these young men jobs, they might not become terrorists?”
Calling his summary a “gross oversimplification” of her explanation, Harf attempted to recast her argument in terms of addressing areas with a “lack of governance,” but Blitzer would not let her move on, noting that “some of the best-known terrorists out there came from wealth and privilege.”
Apparently frustrated by his insistence on sticking to the point, Harf said that maybe it was just “too nuanced” for “some” to comprehend:
Harf: 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 there 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.
Later in the interview she returned to her "not the first person" argument, pointing out that George W. Bush made the same point.
Video, partial transcript via RCP.