More from Richard A. Clarke
Richard A. Clarke spoke at the Middle East Institute conference at the end of October. He began by talking about Al Qaeda (previous post), and then about how to move forward and deal with Al Qaeda, as well as problems in Iraq and with Iran. The Global War on Terrorism, “GWAT” as he terms it, is a misnomer. It is not global, and not so much a war, but rather a struggle against violent Islamic extremism. Al Qaeda uses terrorism as a tactic, in its quest to replace apostate governments in the Middle East with a Caliphate. Al Qaeda is not so much political (no programs and policies), but would lead similarly to the Taliban in Afghanistan in how women are treated, restrictions on cultural activities, and other such restrictions. Clarke advocates an intelligence/law enforcement approach, more so than a military approach. Key Al Qaeda leaders that have been captured thus far, they have been located and captured by intelligence or law enforcement. It is also required to challenge Al Qaeda on its ideology. The “Battle of Ideas” is critical in dealing with Al Qaeda. The War in Iraq has damaged the credibility of the U.S. in Muslim countries. On the notion that “if the U.S. leaves Iraq, there will be chaos and Al Qaeda will build a sanctuary there”, Clarke asks “how would we know? how would chaos be different than the current situation”? Al Qaeda has already gone in, and have training opportunities in Iraq with targets brought to them. If Al Qaeda tries to build camps in Iraq, would the U.S have to accept that? No. Clarke explains that “We would ask the government to eliminate it. If they don’t we do.” That does not require the U.S. to have troops in Iraq, as the U.S. would still have air capabilities, as well as special forces stationed in the Persian Gulf region. Regarding Iran, Clarke does not support an aggressive, military approach towards them, as that only exacerbates the situation rather than helping. Audio of his talk, as well as from other speakers, is available online at the conference website.