Obama’s thoughts on nuclear terrorism, human rights promotion

Excerpts from the speech:
As for our common security, America is waging a more effective fight against al Qaeda, while winding down the war in Iraq.  Since I took office, the United States has removed nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq.  We have done so responsibly, as Iraqis have transitioned to lead responsibility for the security of their country.

We are now focused on building a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while keeping our commitment to remove the rest of our troops by the end of next year.

While drawing down in Iraq, we have refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven.  In Afghanistan, the United States and our allies are pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces, so that a transition to Afghan responsibility can begin next July.  And from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach — one that strengthens our partners and dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.

As we pursue the world’s most dangerous extremists, we’re also denying them the world’s most dangerous weapons, and pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

In this context it’s interesting to add Obama thoughts on such a nuclear terrorist attack. This is an excerpt from what Obama said to Bob Woodward:

“I
said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a
presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a
terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. but even a
9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that ever took place on our soil,
we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country
that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.”

Then
he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a
nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American
city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so
when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time,
that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any
mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to
start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national
security discussion? Making sure that that occurence, even if remote,
never happens.”

On the promotion of human rights:

So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do.  But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights — whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments — have chosen to be our adversaries.

Human rights have never gone unchallenged — not in any of our nations, and not in our world. Tyranny is still with us — whether it manifests itself in the Taliban killing girls who try to go to school, a North Korean regime that enslaves its own people, or an armed group in Congo-Kinshasa that use rape as a weapon of war.

In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights.  Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom.  We see leaders abolishing term limits.  We see crackdowns on civil society.  We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance.  We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.

As I said last year, each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its own people.  Yet experience shows us that history is on the side of liberty; that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and open governments.  To put it simply, democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for our citizens.  And I believe that truth will only grow stronger in a world where the borders between nations are blurred.

On accountability:

The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens. In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable.  And now, we must build on that progress.  And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.

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