Admiral James Milton Loy (Former US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Commandant of the Coast Guard)

18.05.2011 - Interview conducted by Katie Dickmeyer

Q1: Given your extensive background with Homeland Security, what does the death of Osama Bin Laden mean? Do you think it is a major victory in the fight against terrorism, or do you think Al Qaeda is still far from being defeated, even without their charismatic chief?

I agree more with the latter as opposed to the former. At the end of the day, there is some degree of closure for the 3,000 families of the victims in US, let alone the families all over the world, that were impacted by this event. Quite frankly, the world is a better place without him and without the ideas and the poison that were generated by his efforts. So the reality is, at least in the short term, there is one less person picking up the riffle for Al Qaeda. If I were still Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security I would definitely be upping my concern level for the revenge motive in the short term. Determining how Al Qaeda has developed over the course of the last ten years must be undertaken as a study project as well. It is no longer the unified, top-down directional kind of organization that it was then.  It depended on one person, Osama bin Laden, to fund it and its training camps and all that it does. Dramatically, it has now been regionalized—or I have heard the word fragmented—into three standing elements around the world. I think the intelligence community in our country and around the world, sharing information in respect to this, should and would conclude that the threat is every bit as huge today as it was the day before he was killed. If anything, in the short run there is a concern that we should be following very carefully. In the long run, his departure from the scene probably makes no difference at all.

Q2: Speaking in terms of hard and soft power, what are the differences between the US foreign policy under President Bush and President Obama? How do you think these differences are perceived in Europe and in the Arab world?

I do not think we need to distinguish between the two administrations. We need to be concerned with how the US uses its status as the sole surviving superpower. We have heard that phrase before, but we probably still do not know the job description as well as we should. But at the end of the day, the notion of one president advocating hard power and another president advocating soft power is a very juvenile approach to the question. Frankly I like to use the word influence as opposed to power in relation to where diplomacy and development, as elements of US national influence around the world, can be endorsed and strengthened. We should be focused the business of doing. As I mentioned in my remarks, the whole State Department budget is less than 1% of the national budget. To consider how the US is attempting to use its influence constructively around the world on a budget that is less than 1% of its appropriated intent is in itself a statement of inadequacy. I think there are some wonderful reforms happing in the world at the moment. At the moment we ought to engaging with this call for change and providing resources to follow the rhetoric. It’s just inadequate for us to talk about intentions and fail to follow them up with resources. It takes resources in order to project the US influence on these things around the world.  So, the idea of the three D’s—defense, diplomacy and development—is imperative in our mind for soft power, for smart power. Alternatively as I said before, the word influence is a better way to put it.

Q3: What is your position on the crisis currently occurring in Libya, especially with regards to the involvement of the US? Do you think it will be possible to reach a victory without deploying troops?

I think the President has made it quite clear he has no intentions of deploying troops on the ground. So far, we have the notion of shared responsibility from an assembly of countries interested in the same outcome, all repulsed by Gadaffi’s treatment of his people. For the moment, at least, my position is that the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the President have done a very good job of limiting the US engagement in response to those initial activities in North Africa.  The US then became one of many, rather than the only one who though it necessary to be engaged, as has been the case in the past. Whether there will be success or failure of that approach, only time will tell. However, the indicators that I have say that the community of nations is repulsed by Gadaffi’s treatment of his citizens, and this should take us to the place we would like to go.

Thank you for your time.