A recently unearthed video shows that President Obama has greatly shifted his views on how to address terrorism, advocating a “soft power” approach in 2004, to employing drone strikes and targeted killing of terror suspects during his Presidency.
During a November 2004 Barnes and Noble book signing tour for "Dreams From My Father", Obama was asked a question about the causes of terrorism. Obama responded by saying:
“Ultimately, terrorism is a tactic. We’re not fighting terrorists, we’re fighting people who engage in terrorism, but have a whole host of rationales and excuses for why they do this,” Obama said. “And to the extent that we can change the sense of opportunity in many of these countries, we can change the manner in which we function in these countries in more positive proactive ways, then we’re not going to eliminate terrorism entirely but we’re at least going to be able to make more of a dent than if all we’re resorting to is military firepower.”
Heading into his second term as President, Obama's stance on a diplomatic "soft approach" seems to have shifted. Although he still advocates diplomacy, sanctions, and other non military measures as ways of addressing terrorist threats, his use of drone strikes indicates a much harder approach to the war on terror. According to Slate.com, 284 drone strikes have been launched in Pakistan since Obama took office.
Drone strikes in Pakistan
A New America Foundation report estimates that those drone strikes have killed between 1618-2769 terrorists. It also estimates that between 153-192 civilians have been killed as a result of the drone strikes. Earlier this year, a Pew Research Poll showed that 62 percent of Americans approve of drone attacks in Pakistan.
Some believe that the harder stance actually encourages political violence by terrorist and groups like Hamas. The Jerusalem Fund's Yousef Munayyer told the New York Times the assumption that America's use of "hard power" is more effective is flawed. He believes that Obama's initial "soft power view" was more appropriate, saying
"The United States government must ask: what message do America’s policies send to Israelis and Palestinians? But events in Gaza, like those in Egypt and elsewhere, have proved once again that the use of force is incapable of providing security for Israel, when the underlying causes of a people’s discontent go unaddressed."
The debate between those that favor a "hard" versus "soft" power approach will likely continue, and history will one day show which opinion is correct. What is certain is that once faced with the task of protecting American lives and interests, Obama's view have visibly changed.