The Best Strategy for Dealing with al-Qaeda

Paul Cruickshank is a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law. He previously worked as an investigative journalist in London, reporting on al Qaeda and its European affiliates and was part of the CNN reporting team that covered the London July 7, 2005 attacks. He collaborated closely with Peter Bergen in interviewing acquaintances of Osama bin Laden for Bergen's 2006 oral history "The Osama bin Laden I Know" and worked with CNN on a two-hour Emmy-nominated documentary "In the footsteps of bin Laden." Cruickshank has written about al Qaeda and Islamist groups for a number of publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic and Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He has provided on-air analysis to CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS, BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera on national security issues. Cruickshank graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in history, and has a Masters degree with Honors in International Relations from the Paul. H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. He has also worked in the European Parliament in Brussels and at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.

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TRANSCRIPT

Paul Cruickshank: I think the best strategy for the United States and the allies of the United States in this struggle or war on terrorism moving nder.  Abu Ghraib was a regrettable blunder.  It really gave Al Qaeda a powerful recruiting tool in trying to get the volunteers which are necessary for its global jihad.  So “Do no harm” would be a very good mantra for the next U.S. president to take on.  Beyond that, I think that the next U.S. president really has to make a sort of symbolic break with past policies.  The paradigm with which the U.S. is viewed at the moment is a very negative one.  That needs to be broken by whoever the next U.S. candidate to become president is gonna be.

 

Question:  What would an effective policy break look like?

 

Paul Cruickshank: George W. Bush is a very unpopular figure in the Islamic world.  Some of that is obviously unfair, but the reality is the President of the United States and the United States is viewed very negatively right now.  That needs to change.  The most important part of that is for the United States to think very carefully about how it comes up with the foreign policy decisions in the years to come.  It really has to put the views of a billion Muslims around the world in as a factor in calculating the foreign policy that it needs to pursue.  So these are very important things to consider when you’re moving forward.  Clearly the United States also has to be seen as really trying for peace between Israel and Palestine, which has been a very, very important issue in the Muslim world.  It’s been the cause of a lot of anti-Americanism in past years; because America – rightly or wrongly – is seen as not being evenhanded in that dispute in the last years, and certainly during the Bush administration.  So the President obviously now is making a push for peace.  There’s an enormous amount of skepticism in the Arab world and the Muslim world about his motives.  I think the next president really needs to be able to persuade Muslims around the world that the United States really is engaged in an evenhanded attempt to create peace in the Middle East.  The Kashmir disputes between India and Pakistan is another issue which the United States and the next president really should get involved with as an arbiter between Pakistan and India.  The Kashmir dispute is also something which causes radicalization.  It’s an issue which is destabilizing for Pakistan, which right now is terror central, unfortunately.  The Kashmiri dispute has been allowed to fester for decades.  And it’s a dispute where you’re getting generations of jihadists involved in Pakistan who are sort of going from the tribal areas of the country to go and fight in the disputed territories in Kashmir.  So that’s another area the United States President really needs to address moving forward in an evenhanded way.  Those are the sorts of departures which are very, very important, and the next U.S. president really has to sort of concentrate on.  But a lot of it also will be in terms of rhetoric.  Suddenly the United States has certain interests in the Middle East which are non-negotiable; and which should not be given up.  But the next U.S. President really has to engage in a rhetoric which is gonna explain what the United States is doing; that the United States is not a colonial power.  There’s a great deal of suspicion in the Middle East and beyond that the United States is a colonial power because of the history of colonial subjugation of western powers in the region.  So the next U.S. President . . .  And this is for the U.S. President.  This is not for State Department.  It’s not a question of public diplomacy.  It’s the question of what the United States President is seen as saying moving forward.

 

Recorded on: Jan 14 2008

 


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