Former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke has changed his tune over the past month. Here was Clarke on November 19, still in the throes of Obamamania:
Obama’s election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law. It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers.
Obama’s commitment to withdraw from Iraq also takes away an al Qaeda propaganda tenet: that the U.S. seeks to occupy oil rich Arab lands. His commitment to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan also challenges their plans. Most of all, by returning to American values the world admires, Obama sets al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas, the ideological struggle which determines whether al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world.
Here’s Richard Clarke yesterday:
Seven years after 9/11, the United States has neither eliminated the threat from al-Qaeda nor secured Afghanistan, where bin Laden’s terrorists were once headquartered. To accomplish these two tasks, we must now eliminate the new terrorist safe haven in Pakistan. But that will require effective action from a weak and riven Pakistani government. It might also depend upon dealing with the long-standing India-Pakistan rivalry. On balance, al-Qaeda’s agenda for 2009 looks to be the easier one.
What accounts for Clarke’s new pessimism? Well, he was in the running to be Barack Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary – until it became clear that the job was going to Janet Napolitano. But far be it from me to imply that a policy “expert’s” national security assessment could turn on something like dashed personal employment prospects.