Marie Harf, yesterday:
We’re killing a lot of them [ISIS militants] 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 medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs […] 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.
The right-wing blogosphere has, predictably, gone ballistic over this. But the fact of the matter is that many neocons once promoted the Iraq War by asserting similar arguments–namely, that a democratic and prosperous Iraq would neutralize the anti-American sentiment and Islamic extremism that plagues the Middle East. In fact, an argument similar to Harf’s was used by none other than Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate in 2012:
This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world and to America in particular, which is to see a — a complete change in the — the — the structure and the — the environment in the Middle East. With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women and — and public life and in economic life in the Middle East.
But instead we’ve seen in nation after nation a number of disturbing events. Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in — in — in Libya an attack apparently by — well, I think we know now by terrorists of some kind against — against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and minds go to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali, by al-Qaida-type individuals. We have in — in Egypt a Muslim Brotherhood president.
And so what we’re seeing is a — a — a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon. And — and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaida. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess.
We’re — we’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and — and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism which is — it’s really not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.
Later, Romney expanded on his strategy:
Well, my strategy’s pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than — than that. That’s — that’s important, of course, but the key that we’re going to have to pursue is a — is a pathway to — to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan. That’s not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the — the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these — these jihadists, but also help the Muslim world.
And how we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up was this.
One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment and that of our friends — we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education.
Number three, gender equality.
Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.
I suppose today’s wingnuts would just denounce Romney as a RINO anyhow, but many of those same wingnuts were making the same exact argument during the Bush years.
There were much more important reasons to topple Saddam–terrorism being one of them. The root causes of terrorism are the lack of capitalism, the lack of democracy, and the lack of modern education. What has stood in the way of those things has primarily been the regimes of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We just got one of them out of the way. […] Getting at the root of terror is clear: topple these regimes and then bring democracy, capitalism, and education to the Islamic world. Let them have the hot wife, the Bimmer, and kids to live for. America has to lift them up, not because we are a country of great guys, but to keep them from growing into lost killer boys with the U.S. in their sights.
“Lost killer boys” sounds practically sympathetic to the plight of Islamic extremists. Sounds like the same bleeding heart stuff we hear from Harf, in fact.