Oct. 3, 2017

Batten's Potter Interviewed on Trump and Counter-Terrorism, Sixteen Years After 9/11

Stephen Tankel, a senior editor at the podcast War on the Rocks, interviewed Phil Potter, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy and Director of Batten’s National Security Policy Center—and other experts—for a recent episode commemorating the sixteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The podcast is here.

Below is a transcription of their conversation (edited for brevity and clarity):


Tankel: Our topic today is terrorism…As the recent terrorist attack in Charlottesville highlighted, we also face a threat from far-right extremists…

We reached out to experts who study terrorism for a living…Let’s start with where counter-terrorism fits into the administration’s foreign policy…

Potter: During the campaign and early in the administration, I think there were a lot of indications that the war against terrorism—or the continuation of that idea—would be the driving motivation of Trump foreign policy.

Potter: To the extent that there was a clear indication of what the organizing principal of U.S. foreign policy would be, it was going to be something to do with the Middle East, something to do with terrorism. The fight against (the) Islamic state seemed to figure very prominently. This was a constant theme in the rhetoric.

Tankel: …Potter put the administration’s lack of preparation for post-ISIS politics in the context of a wider lack of focus.

Potter: We are not paying sufficient attention in a consistent and coherent way to the problems in this region, and the problems of terrorism overall.

Tankel: Potter worried about how the administration’s broader treatment of other countries might impact our counter-terrorism efforts.

Potter: I think there (are) a lot of questions these days among our allies in terms of priorities and relationships. And this then leads to issues with whether folks are willing to share intelligence with us. They’re concerned about how carefully that intelligence is going to be guarded.

Tankel: Potter recorded that segment before Trump accidentally shared classified intelligence, allegedly provided by Israel, with the Russians. And he had this to say in a follow-up conversation.

Potter: You know, it’s been such a hectic set of news cycles that we’ve kind of already forgotten about the dustup over the assets that were revealed to the Russians a while back, allegedly from the Israelis who are one of our key counter-terrorism partners, one of our key allies in the region.

We don’t have great reach into the organizations operating in this region, and so we rely on other people to do that for us, whether it’s the Israelis or the Jordanians, or various other partners.

We need to be really careful about cutting off those relationships.

In This Article

Associate Professor of Politics and Public Policy and Director of the National Security Policy Center
Email Address
Office Location/Room Number
S183 Gibson Hall