I want to begin by thanking Chairman Burton, Congressman Meeks, and the members of the subcommittee for this opportunity to appear before you today. The question I will be addressing—whether there is as a significant divergence between how the United States and its closest European allies deal with the Islamist terrorist threat—is one that has important implications for transatlantic relations but, unfortunately, is broadly misunderstood not only here in the United States but also by our allies abroad.
As someone who has worked both as a staff director on a Senate committee dealing with national security issues and in a senior post in the White House handling the same policy area, I am fully aware of the great value that hearings such as these can have in making our policymaking process more deliberative and more substantive. It is one of the great strengths of our constitutional system that we are known around the world not only for having a strong presidency but also the world’s most powerful legislature.
Before I begin, and because this is the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, I did want to note the passing of Ron Asmus this past Saturday. Ron, who served in the Clinton Administration as deputy assistant secretary of state for European Affairs, and the past several years as head of the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Brussels office and GMF’s director of strategic planning, was a remarkable policymaker, scholar and colleague in transatlantic affairs. His last book, The Little War that Shook the World, was a tour de force on the failure of American and European statecraft leading up to the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008. Ron was dedicated to the proposition that the promotion of political freedom was America’s moral and strategic obligation. He will be greatly missed.
Turning now to the topic I was asked to address–to give context to United States counterterrorism policy by comparing it with the policies and practices of our European allies – I want to begin by noting that my comments are largely derived from a compilation of studies that I commissioned in previous years looking at how key countries in Europe (the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain) were addressing the threat of Islamist terrorism domestically. I then analyzed those studies and set out to compare their respective findings with the post-9/11 counterterrorism regime here in the United States. The result was a volume published last summer by the American Enterprise Institute entitled Safety, Liberty and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism.
Gary J. Schmitt is Director of Advanced Strategic Studies at AEI.