Amid tight security attendant to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed an overflow crowd at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on September 9, unveiling an evolving counterterrorism strategy that focuses on the exercise of “smart power” to defeat violent extremism.
Noting that the United States finds itself in a “moment of historic change and opportunity,” Secretary Clinton said that while the death of Osama bin-Laden has put Al Qaeda on the path to defeat, “it is imperative that we not repeat the mistake of not adapting quickly to new threats.”
Secretary Clinton was introduced by John Jay President Jeremy Travis, who said that her presence at the College paid tribute to the memory of the 68 John Jay alumni and students — most of them firefighters — who lost their lives in the destruction of the World Trade Center. As an attorney, as First Lady of the United States and as a U.S. Senator from New York, Secretary Clinton showed herself to be a “fierce advocate for justice,” President Travis said.
“Precise and consistent force,” the Secretary said, can defeat even an enemy as elusive as Al Qaeda, but the United States needs effective international partners in this effort. “We will always maintain our right to use force in self-defense against those who have attacked us,” Secretary Clinton said, adding that the fight against terrorism must be both a military and law enforcement task.
The State Department’s multi-pronged counterterrorism strategy includes breaking down bureaucratic walls that inhibit effective action, focusing on cybercrime, preventing the proliferation of nuclear materials, improved border security and dismantling the support structure of Al Qaeda. “We can make it harder for Al Qaeda to fill its ranks and its coffers,” Secretary Clinton said, whether that entails encouraging global partners to embrace a “no concessions” policy regarding kidnapping or taking proactive steps to slow Al Qaeda’s recruitment by undermining the organization’s appeal.
“The playbook is still being written, and there is no silver bullet, for sure,” the Secretary said. “The job calls for a scalpel, not a sledge hammer.”
Later this month, Secretary Clinton noted, another significant step will be taken with the establishment of a global counterterrorism forum, in which the United States and Turkey, as founding chairs, will be joined by 30 other countries in a collaborative effort to defeat terrorism wherever it emerges.
“We remember how the world rallied around us on 9/11,” Secretary Clinton said. “Today the world is watching us again to see how we respond to new challenges.” American leadership, she said, is still “revered and required.”