It is encouraging to hear both candidates speak of reequipping the Intelligence Community (IC)—weakened by restrictive policies, diminished resources, and a climate of distrust surrounding IC organizations and personnel—to effectively confront the multiplying challenges and threats to U.S. national security. Both candidates, however, could go further in laying out specifics. Clinton’s “intelligence surge” in response to international and domestic acts of terrorism sounds appealing but falters on some specifics. An “intelligence surge” must necessarily include a mission to persuade Congress to restore and stabilize statutory authorities, funding, broad support for the intelligence community, and investment into the technologies and personnel that will serve as the nation’s first line of defense. It must also lean more “offensive” in nature by expanding the collection of human intelligence and revitalizing covert action as a foreign policy tool.
Islam is a faith of over one billion people worldwide, including over three million in the United States, the vast majority of whom reject the radical worldviews and tactics of Sunni groups like al Qaeda and ISIS and Shi’a groups like Hezbollah. At the same time, it is fair to say that the ideology that motivates and inspires groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS has deep roots in longstanding radical Islamist theology, as does the ideology that underpins the Iranian revolutionary state and its terrorist proxies. It is these extremist interpretations of Islam that create, for their adherents, a narrative of unrelenting hostility between Islam and the West.
Some radical Islamist groups—like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas—utilize existing Western institutions like elections to advance their ambition of making Islam the sole source of governance and political power. But even these groups do so with the aim of creating a global order defined by an extreme vision of their own faith.
Trump’s assertion that Washington should collaborate with Moscow in order to defeat ISIS is based on wishful thinking. His position does not take into account Russia’s ongoing actions in Syria that work against bringing about a sustainable end to the humanitarian disaster and terrorist threat. Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to maintain the power of the Assad regime, which routinely kills its own citizens while sponsoring terrorism, emboldening Iran, and inciting instability in the region. Overall, contrary to Trump’s statements, relying on Russian cooperation in Syria is not a viable path toward defeating ISIS.