“The challenge of our generation is going to be to deal with religious radical extremism, which exploits a legitimate and beautiful religion that is being totally distorted, has nothing to do with what they purport to be pursuing, and nevertheless captures the minds of some of our young people – even in America,” Kerry told staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.
He noted that more than 100 Americans have traveled to the region to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), while more had done so from European countries, Australia and elsewhere.
“And so we have to push back. We’re not going to win this exclusively through our efforts on the ground in this coalition with kinetic efforts,” he said, referring to the U.S.-led coalition’s military operations against the jihadist group. “We’re going to win this with ideas.”
Kerry then picked up a theme he raises periodically, linking the allure of jihadist terrorism to a lack of opportunities among frustrated young people.
“We’re also going to win it with better alternatives for a whole bunch of young people who today live in places where they feel oppressed, where they don’t have a lot of opportunity, there’s not enough education, they don’t have jobs,” he said. “But they know what the rest of the world has because they all have smart phones, they all have mobile devices, and they’re all seeing what’s going on and they trade thoughts.”
“And frankly, there have been years and years of anger and frustration building up for a whole lot of different reasons in South Central Asia, Middle East, Horn of Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and different places,” Kerry continued.
“So our challenge is to not make them think that modernity and rule of law and civil society and states that have long existed is somehow the enemy,” he said. “And what we have to do is take our values and our principles out there as never before.”