Richard Clarke is Aghast That Anyone Believes 'the United States Can Affect Things'

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the power of government.

Former counter-terrorism czar and author Richard Clarke got into an argument with NRO and Telegraph blogger Tom Rogan on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" this past Friday night over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq. During the exchange, Clarke dismissed the United States in a manner akin to the "paper tiger" of Mao's scornful denunciation. (Video after the jump)

Rogan was arguing that Islamic fanatics are gaining ground in Iraq as a direct result of President Obama's unwillingness to negotiate for an extended status of forces agreement that included a significant US military presence. Instead, the last American soldiers departed from Iraq in 2011, leaving only a small contingent to protect the embassy. 

Here is how it went between Rogan and Clarke, preceded with remarks from Maher --

MAHER: More philosophically, we were arguing about this area of the world a couple of months ago on this show and I said, you know, because liberals get mad at me when I talk about the Muslims 'cause I think they don't read the paper. And I said, you know, in the 16th century I would be criticizing the Christians because in the 16th century Protestants and Catholics spent the entire century slaughtering each another. But that's the 16th century, when the world was too Christian, too religious on the Christian side. This seems to be like the moment when the Muslims are having their 16th century. The Sunnis and the Shiites are gonna have this out and we just have to let them have it out.

CLARKE (emphatically): And there's nothing we can about it. (applause from audience)

ROGAN: So let me offer something we could do about it, in contrast to that (gestures toward Clarke). I actually think that because it's much more complex than Shia versus Sunni. I mean, you look at what's happening at the moment with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), they've been enabled by the vacuum in Syria. We decided not to arm the FSA (Free Syrian Army), the Free Syrian rebels, there's a debate about that. But in the vacuum of America being there, what you've seen is the mobilization of Sunnis around ISIS, partly because of Maliki really governing in a sectarian way ...

CLARKE: And this wouldn't have happened if America was still there?

ROGAN: Well, but look at the metrics, it wasn't happening in 2011 before we left. We were providing the Iraqis with capabilities and influence as well.

CLARKE (condescendingly): You have this belief that the United States can affect things ...

ROGAN: Well, I have that belief because I've seen, you've seen the figures, the metrics ...

CLARKE: I've seen the United States fail in country after country trying to fundamentally change those countries.

This coming just after the 70th anniversary of the United States beginning the grueling work of fundamentally changing a specific country in Europe, along with Western civilization as a whole. Imagine how FDR, Truman and Eisenhower, and nearly all the men who followed them in office, would react to Clarke's blithe dismissal of American power and influence.

Ever since hearing this, I've wondered if Clarke meant to say that "you have this belief that the United States can effect change."

Either way, a bizarre claim from a man who spent the better part of three decades working in the federal government of that feckless, impotent nation.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts