Richard Clarke's statement to the 9-11 families that "Your government failed you - and I failed you" was the most dramatic moment in the 9-11 Commission hearings. His number-one best seller, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, explained how the U.S. had stumbled into a struggle with violent Islamist extremists.
Now, in Your Government Failed You, Clarke looks at why failures have continued and how America and the world can succeed against the terrorists.
But Clarke goes beyond terrorism to examine the recurring U.S. government disasters. Despite the lessons of Vietnam, we've gotten involved in Iraq. A trail of intelligence failures litter the Washington landscape. From Katrina to color codes and duct tape, homeland security has been an oxymoron. Why does the Superpower continue to hobble national security?
Drawing on his 30 years in the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and Intelligence Community, Clarke discovers patterns in the failure and suggests ways to stop the cycle.
9/11 Changed Everything?
When I said "Your government failed you" to the families of the victims
of 9/11, it seemed to me that I was merely stating the obvious: the
government had failed the American people. And I had.
Three thousand people had been murdered in a morning, not on a
battlefield, not in their battleships as had happened at Pearl Harbor,
but in their offices. They had been killed by a terrorist group that had
promised to attack us, and which we had been unable to stop. The CIA had
been unable to assassinate its leadership. It had also been unable to
tell anyone when the terrorists had shown up in this country, even
though it knew they were here. The national leadership had been
unwilling to focus on the threat for months, although repeatedly warned
to do so. And I had been unable to get either the bureaucracy or the new
national leadership to act toward the terrorist network before the big
attack in the way they would want to respond after thousands of
Americans had been murdered.
The American people had a right to know what the failures were that led
to 9/11 and why they occurred. I tried to tell that story as I saw it,
stretching over more than two decades, in Against All Enemies, a
book I wrote two years after the attack. Then the 9/11 Commission was
forced into existence by the victims' families. Its report and staff
studies looked at what had happened from a number of perspectives and
uncovered new information. Since then several authors and analysts have
added further detail.
On that horrific day in September, while trying to make the machinery of
government work in the minutes and hours after the attack, I suppressed
my anger at al Qaeda, at the U.S. government, at myself. There was an
urgent job to be done that day. But in one brief moment of catching my
breath, I was consoled by my colleague Roger Cressey, who noted that
now, finally, all of our plans to destroy al Qaeda and its network of
organizations would be implemented. The nation would deal seriously and
competently with the problem. I assumed he was right and got back to
work. It turned out he was wrong. Incredibly, after 9/11 our government
failed us even more, much more.
"9/11 changed everything." That was the remark we heard over and over
again in the years that followed. It was only partially true. 9/11 did
not change the Constitution, although some have acted as if it did. Nor
did the government's response to the attacks make us more secure. Though
a great deal of activity has taken place, al Qaeda the organization and
al Qaeda the movement still threaten the United States. We still have
significant vulnerabilities at home. And abroad, we have far fewer
friends and far more enemies than on 9/12.
By the second anniversary of the attack on America, the United States
had invaded and occupied two Islamic nations, created an
Orwellian-sounding new bureaucracy, launched a spending spree of
unprecedented proportions, and was systematically shredding
international law and our own Constitution. Despite our frenzy, or in
many cases because of it, the problem we sought to address, violent
Islamist extremism, was getting worse. Much of what our government did
after 9/11, at home and abroad, departed from our values and identity as
a nation. It was also massively counterproductive. Our government failed
us before and after 9/11, and it continues to do so today.
Indeed, as this book unfolds you will see how I believe that we have
been failing at important national security missions for a long time.
Sometimes, as perhaps proved by the end of the Cold War, we succeed
despite ourselves, like a student who makes it by even with some failing
grades and incompletes. But the failures are piling high and we are not
correcting them; in some cases we are making them worse. And there are
new challenges that, like al Qaeda before 9/11, we know are coming and
are not addressing sufficiently or successfully. Though al Qaeda still
exists and is growing stronger, there are new risks in cyberspace and
from climate change. What is wrong that we cannot become sufficiently
motivated and agreed as a nation to address known threats before they
become disasters? Why do we accept costly chronic problems whose
cumulative effects are far greater than those of the well-known
This book is my attempt to understand what happened after 9/11 and
answer the larger question of why the U.S. government, despite all of
its resources, performs so poorly at national security. The problems lie
in how we as a nation have decided to conduct the process of national
security, from problem identification and analysis, through policy
development and implementation, to oversight and accountability. We have
allowed the role of partisan politics to expand and that of professional
public sector management to atrophy. As a result, we repeatedly
misdiagnose the problems we face and prescribe the wrong cures. In this
volume, to attempt to diagnose the problems accurately, we will
sometimes go back in history before 9/11. We will sometimes go forward
to see what effects changing technologies and continuing policies will
have. I will attempt to suggest what we might do differently to address
the unique and cross-cutting problems in a set of related and vital
national security disciplines:
- The conduct of sustained, large-scale, complex operations, such as
- The collection and analysis of national security information by the
- Dealing with violent Islamist extremism, or "the global war on
- Domestic security risk management, or "homeland security"
- Global climate change and national energy policy including the
- The migration of control systems and records into the unsafe
environment of networked systems, or "cyberspace security"
This book is, as was Against All Enemies, a personal story, one
told by reference to my experiences as I remember them and to the many
personalities I have encountered along the way as a Pentagon analyst, a
State Department manager, a White House national security official, and
now as a private citizen. In the weeks before we invaded Iraq, I left
government after thirty years in national security under five Republican
and two Democratic presidents. I have since been teaching, writing, and
traveling about the country and around the world consulting on security
issues. My time in government and since provides me with a special
perspective and, no doubt, distinct prejudices. One of those prejudices,
which you will soon detect, is that I think that on issues of national
security our government can and must work well. Before we begin this
analysis of the systemic problems of U.S. national security management,
perhaps I should reveal how that belief was shaped and formed.
Excerpted from "Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters" by Richard A. Clarke. Copyright © 0 by Richard A. Clarke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.