Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

See the
Conversations with History Blog

See a webcast of this interview:

National Security in an Age of Sacred Terror: Conversation with Daniel Benjamin, Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., February 6, 2006, by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Daniel Benjamin who is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. He served from 1994 to 1997 on the National Security Council staff, first as a special assistant in foreign policy, speech writer for President Clinton, and then as a Director for Counterterrorism during the years 1998 to 1999. book coverA graduate of Harvard and Oxford, he has been a foreign correspondent for Time and the Berlin bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. With Steven Simon he has written The Age of Sacred Terror, and most recently, The Next Attack: The Failure of the War On Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right.

  1. Background ... resisting becoming a lawyer ... interest in journalism ... working in government ... culture shock ... Clinton's speech writer ... close work with National Security Council
  2. The Nature of "Sacred Terror" ... terrorist events during the Clinton years ... Clarke's work to coordinate government agencies ... his ability to foresee potential threats ... Oklahoma and Aum Shinrikyo ... messianic commonalities
  3. The Evolution of Terrorism ... new importance of non-state actors ... "institutionalizing imaginativeness" and "probing the enemy" ... problem of division of labor in government ... "abolition of distance" ... civil liberties ... democratic debate
  4. The Next Attack ... ideologically-driven foe ... inadvertent confirmation of the jihadist narrative ... nonhierarchical structure of al Qaeda ... case of Madrid bombing ... the role of the Internet ... virtual ummah ... Muslim community in Europe
  5. Homeland Security ... failure to set priorities ... unknown factors ... failure of leadership due to preoccupation with Iraq ... failure to understand the jihadist narrative ... finding a political vision

© Copyright 2006, Regents of the University of California

Site questions: Email iis_webmgr at