Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 17:28 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 17:28 | SYDNEY

President plays down terrorist threat


Sam Roggeveen


13 September 2010 13:12

That rather bland headline actually conveys something pretty remarkable — since 9/11, there have been few if any US political leaders prepared to say that terrorism is merely a serious threat (rather than an overwhelmingly urgent and important one) and that counter-terrorism should not dominate US foreign and defence policy.

On 2 September, I wrote that President Obama would have to 'recast the terrorist threat' in this way so that Americans would feel it was responsible to withdraw from Afghanistan. Last Friday, Obama gave a press conference in which he might have made the first attempt at building such a case (or maybe he's just closing off any possibility of sending US forces to Yemen or Somalia):

I think that in this day and age, there are going to be -- there is always going to be the potential for an individual or a small group of individuals, if they are willing to die, to kill other people. Some of them are going to be very well organized and some of them are going to be random. That threat is there. And it’s important, I think, for the American people to understand that, and not to live in fear. It’s just a reality of today’s world that there are going to be threats out there...

...But one of the things that I want to make sure we do as long as I’m President, and beyond my presidency, is to understand America’s strength in part comes from its resilience, and that we don't start losing who we are or overreacting if, in fact, there is the threat of terrorism out there.

We go about our business. We are tougher than them. Our families and our businesses and our churches and mosques and synagogues and our Constitution, our values, that's what gives us strength. And we are going to have this problem out there for a long time to come. But it doesn’t have to completely distort us. And it doesn’t have to dominate our foreign policy. What we can do is to constantly fight against it. And I think ultimately, we are going to be able to stamp it out. But it’s going to take some time.