Yesterday President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Given the importance of counterterrorism in the homeland security portfolio, the entire speech is worth your consideration.
Given our recent attention to the use of “evil” to characterize our homeland security challenge, I highlight the following few lines:
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: we come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope…
There is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces. As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.
Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe…
As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas. First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.
This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.
No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
The other three action areas set out by the President are as strategically important and — indirectly — as helpful to hearing what he means by evil. It is, I perceive, a highly Niebuhrian notion of evil… as I try to explain in the next post, finished about 24 hours before the President’s speech in New York.