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Opening Arguments


The president tries his hand at writing an op-ed piece:

More broadly, groups like al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better.

Governments that deny human rights play into the hands of extremists who claim that violence is the only way to achieve change. Efforts to counter violent extremism will only succeed if citizens can address legitimate grievances through the democratic process and express themselves through strong civil societies.Those efforts must be matched by economic, educational and entrepreneurial development so people have hope for a life of dignity.

(From The Los Angeles Times, via Twitchy, which added the emphasis.)

He's getting a lot of grief for this, but I understand the point he's trying to make, and in a certain sense it is inarguable. He isn't saying address the legitimate grievances of the violent extremists, but of the people the violent extremists exploit. You offer a civilized option to those people in hopes they will choose it instead of the violence. Perhaps that's what the goof at the State Department was trying to get at with her "we can't kill them, we have to offer jobs" silliness.

But it's problematic for a couple of reasons. One is that I don't think it's reasonable to assume people attracted to fundamentalist extremism will be moved by improved life circumstances. "Thanks for the educational opportunity, now I'll stop believing that infidels should be wiped off the face of the Earth"? Don't think so.

The other is that it is almost indecent to talk about "legitimate grievance," no matter whose they are, in the wake of the beheadings, immolations and other atrocities being committed. After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it was important to stand up unequivocally for the freedom to print those cartoons. To turn critic in the same breath and say, "but of course they were in incredibly bad taste and I wouldn't have published them"  would show an incredible level of insensitivity.

That's the kind of insensity the president shows all the time about this issue. At a fundamental level, he just doesn't seem to get that.