Policy planner discusses terrorism

Yesterday, as part of the Gaudino Lecture Series, Andrew Erdmann ’88 addressed the campus community on the challenges facing the United States after Sept. 11. In a talk entitled “Future Challenges in the War on Terrorism,” Erdmann commented on the U.S.’s plans to defend its borders and national interests. “We cannot afford not to press ahead; we cannot afford to become complacent,” said Erdmann. “The War on Terrorism is a fight for international order and global interests, [which] favors freedom.”

Erdmann currently serves as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Team. His expertise lies in the areas of homeland security, Central Asian public policy and counterterrorism. Erdmann holds a B.A. in history and political science from Williams and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

During his opening remarks, Erdmann reminisced about the international world of 1988, the year of his graduation from Williams. He characterized the world as “a different [place].” Then, “terrorism was a secondary issue; [in fact], it was the cost of doing business,” said Erdmann. In 1988, “there were two Germanys, Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union, the eight year Iran/ Iraqi war was coming to an end, and civil war gripped the social climates of South America.” The events of 9/11 changed all of this- “it changed how we see the world.” Now, Erdmann said, “terrorism is the business of the U.S. government.”

Erdmann broke down the challenges of the war on terrorism into four categories: challenges of ideas, institution building; intensityand ideals. These obstacles transform the nature of threat and international relations.Thus, the United States is developing innovative ways to defend America’s borders. For example, a legislative measure to create the Department of Homeland Security is set to pass Congress within the next few days. Erdmann said that “[these] changes and [policy initiatives] span across the board from the arm services to the State Department.”

He appeared less than optimistic about the war on terrorism ending any time soon. Responding to a question from the audience, Erdmann said that everyone has a list of future terrorist attacks that may occur- “the world of [terrorist] groups are always developing.”

Erdmann frequently quoted President Bush and Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and emphasized the need to “defeat” terrorism and the need to “defend” the American people and its allies.