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Richard A. Clarke answers question during the 10/24 panel on the November ANNALS volume. Photo courtesy of MEI.

On October 24, 2016, The Academy and the Middle East Institute hosted a panel discussion with special editors of the November 2016 volume of The ANNALS—Rand Beers, Paul Salem, Richard Clarke, and Emilian Papadopoulos—which focused on what national security challenges, especially with regard to terrorism, the next administration will have to address. Mary Louise Kelly, national security correspondent for NPR, moderated the discussion.

Asking how we define the threat we face today and how we define victory against those threats, Kelly noted that “We are living in a very different world than we were eight years ago.” A common thread in the panel’s responses was “nonstate actors.” “You cannot balance nonstate actors,” said Salem, discussing how the many challenges that the Middle East faces, from economic to demographic, fuel proxy wars that are difficult to anticipate and hard to quickly respond to.

When asked whether we will still be talking about ISIL in four or eight years, Beers responded that the United States “has to face that ISIL is a serious player abroad and at home,” noting that in the last year alone we have had an increase in the number of mass casualty events on U.S. soil that seem to be inspired by ISIL. Clarke responded that ISIL and al-Qaeda will compete for the status of “biggest threat to America,” but that he doesn’t see new organizations developing that the U.S. will have to defeat.

kellyThe overwhelming consensus among the panelists was that without addressing the crisis in Syria, stability will not develop in the Middle East. “There’s no immediate threat from Russia or China,” said Clarke, “we must deal with the Middle East and that means dealing with Syria.” Salem recommended that the U.S. work toward de-escalating and freezing the civil war in Syria to allow for safe spaces for civilians, which could ultimately push ISIL out.

The panel advised the next U.S. administration to take in more refugees and work toward significant rebuilding the Middle East—in areas such as Aleppo and Raqqah, Syria—along the lines of a Marshall Plan for the Middle East.

The panel can be viewed here and a podcast of the event can be found here.

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