Excerpts from Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on a Smart Power Approach to Counterterrorism

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October 3, 2011

Speaking at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York on Sept. 9, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reviewed the past decade of counterterrorism activity and articulated the Obama Administration’s multi-layered strategy for addressing violent extremism.  (Text and video)


Below are excerpts (emphasis added) from her speech related to:

  1. Smart power approach to counterterrorism
  2. How civil society helps counter violent extremism
  3. Staying true to our American values

Smart power approach to counterterrorism

  • "We need to take a smart and strategic approach that recognizes that violent extremism is bound up with nearly all of today’s other complex global problems. It can take root in zones of crisis and poverty, flourish under repression and in the absence of the rule of law, spark hatreds among communities that have lived side by side for generations, and exploit conflict within and between states."
  • "[Defeating a terror network] requires smart power, a strategy that integrates all our foreign policy tools – diplomacy and development hand-in-hand with defense – and that advances our values and the rule of law. We are waging a broad, sustained, and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power against terrorism. And even as we remain tightly focused on the terrorist network that attacked us 10 years ago, we’re also thinking about the next 10 years and beyond, about the next threats, about that long-term ideological challenge that requires us to dig deeply into and rely upon our most cherished values."

How civil society helps counter violent extremism

  • "Civil society and the private sector have important roles to play. Groups such as Sisters Against Violent Extremism, a group of women in 17 countries around the world who have risked their lives to tell terrorists that they are not welcome in their communities. They have written newspaper articles in Yemen, held workshops for young people in Indonesia, brought Indian and Pakistani women together to show a united front. These women know they will not stop extremism everywhere, but they refuse to sit on the sidelines. Local authorities and civil society often are better positioned than we are to provide services to their people, disrupt plots, and prosecute extremists, and they often bear the brunt of terrorist attacks."
  • "This is a job that calls for a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. So we are pursuing micro-strategies that include credible local leaders and are driven by local needs and informed by local knowledge. For example, in the triangle between Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia where famine and conflict have opened the door to extremists, we are exploring a new partnership with the Kenya Muslim Youth Association. They will organize small learning circles around mainstream religious scholars, who will help provide counseling to young people who have been radicalized. This is a small project, one of many we’re doing, but it’s taking on a big challenge, and it’s a start, and we will keep learning and adapting and keep convincing others to join with us."

Staying true to our American values

  • "[J]ust as counterterrorism cannot be the sole focus of our foreign policy, it does not make sense to view counterterrorism in a vacuum. It must be integrated into our broader diplomatic and development agendas. And we should appreciate that while working to resolve conflicts, reduce poverty, and improve governance, those are valuable ends in themselves, but they also advance the cause of counterterrorism and national security."
  • "The United States has thrived as an open society, a principled nation, and a global leader. And we cannot and will not live in fear, sacrifice our values, or pull back from the world."

  • "As we pursue our campaign [against terrorists], we will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al-Qaida that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent violence. In doing so, we will stay true to our values and respect the rule of law, including international law principles guiding the use of force in self-defense, respect for the sovereignty of other states, and the laws of armed conflict."
  • "[I]t is equally important that the United States continues to live up to our own best values and traditions. The people of these nations are looking at us with fresh eyes, and we need to make sure they see us as a source of opportunity and hope, as a partner, not an adversary."