Richard Clarke Addresses Terrorism in the Trump Era
University of Pennsylvania alumnus Richard Clarke (’72) visited the Penn campus on March 16 to headline two AAPSS events.
At the first event—a small round-table discussion with Penn students—Clarke focused on his role as a national security policy expert. He discussed his time in the Bush administration, specifically during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the policies that developed afterward. Professor Claire Finkelstein of Penn Law moderated the discussion.
One attendee, John Schippert (’17 JD/MBA), noted that 9/11 had had a profound impact on the course of his life and “speaking with a high level national security official who was intimately involved in responding to 9/11 and reshaping our intelligence community was one of the most meaningful experiences I have had in graduate school.”
The evening event, which was kicked off by AAPSS Chair Janice Madden, focused more on the November 2016 ANNALS volume that Clarke had guest-edited on countering violent extremism and regional transition in the Middle East. In front of more than 100 people, Clarke outlined what he sees as the challenges that lay ahead for the Trump administration.
“The best way to stop terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Western Europe,” Clarke said, “is to have the Islamic communities in our countries feel like they are home.” Some small programs have had success in encouraging integration of Muslim communities, but the U.S. needs to enhance these programs.
A second challenge for the Trump administration is failed states in the Middle East. “As long as these countries have large swaths of territory that remain ungoverned or are governed by a terrorist organization,” Clarke said, “they remain a threat.” However, a central government does not necessarily lead to stability and could just push Daesh (ISIS) underground. Terrorist organizations will always exist unless the U.S. and its allies win the battle of ideas in these vulnerable geographic areas.
Following Clarke’s comments, the event moved to a discussion with career intelligence officer Malcolm Nance. Nance and Clarke discussed topics such as policies of the Obama administration toward Syria, the Iran nuclear treaty, the impending travel ban as ordered by the Trump administration, and Russia. Nance and Clarke agreed that the media needs to do a better job of explaining to the public the realities of the terrorist threat—that most of the horrendous attacks that have taken place on U.S. soil in the last 20 years have been carried out by U.S.-born white men that identify as Christian while the largest victim group of Islamic terrorism around the world are other Muslims.