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Acclaimed journalists confront counter-terrorism

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 02:10

New York Times journalists Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt — a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize — held a lecture and book signing for their work, “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against al-Qaeda,” in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on Wednesday.

Students representing the Corps of Cadets, citizens of Bryan-College Station and a group of students hailing from Sam Houston State University gathered to listen to the two journalists share stories of involvement overseas and talk about America’s response and changes in the War on Terror.

“Our book is really casting an eye back at the last ten years of America’s counter terrorism efforts and then looking ahead to where we are today,” Shanker said.

Schmitt and Shanker traded back and forth and delved into several aspects of their books talking about America after 9/11, presidents, the growth and importance of cyber warfare and the ever-changing battlefield that America faces. They refered to the constant dynamics of trying to keep up with the enemy through U.S. counter-terrorism as “New Darwinism.”

Schmitt and Shanker also talked about how the U.S. returned to Cold War-era theories in the fight against al-Qaeda, such as cutting off business ties and cash flow.

“In our book, we give several examples of how some of this idea of deterring and understanding the [terrorist] network really starts to be applied in the field,” Schmitt said.

It was these deterrents that systematically helped stop al-Qaeda from launching subsequent attacks

Shanker discussed President George W. Bush’s initial hesitancy to use deterrents because the deterrents were originally thought to be defensive and not a direct assault on the Taliban. Bush was convinced that these deterrents worked and would become an offensive weapon.

Shanker said his main thoughts in writing the book were his wife, the U.S. Army and Johnny Cash. He wanted to write a book that would inform the average American of what their government was doing. Citing that it is an American right for the people to know what the U.S. government is doing in the peoples’ name.

Members of the audience included Cole Harris and head drum major Michael Froebel, Harris and Froebel are both seniors in the Aggie Band and will graduate as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

“It was a great opportunity to hear an expert’s opinion on international issues,” Froebel said.

Harris and Froebel said it was a positive experience to hear methods and tactics that they have been discussing in the Corps, explained in the writers’ presentation.

“It’s great to see the media side on counter-terrorism,” Harris said.

In the end, Schmitt and Shanker both agreed that America will be attacked again.

Schmitt said with all the advances and deterrents that have been put in place, the chance of another 9/11 is lower than ever before. But, he said the next attack may be upon the American economy and the average American psyche.

Shanker is a Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times with a focus in military operations and has been on several trips to the Middle East. He has also worked directly with U.S. Special Forces in some locations.

Schmitt is also a Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, but focuses on national security. He has made several trips overseas to countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, and embedded with U.S. troops during the First Gulf War.


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