Vol. 40, No. 3

A Note from the Chairman

From the moment the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Americans have known that we were in a different kind of war. But in at least one respect, the war we are fighting today bears some resemblance to wars we have fought in the past.

Branding America

After nearly five years, we no longer remember all their names. But we remember their faces. And we will never forget their eyes. They are the eyes of killers. They are the eyes of the 19 hijackers who commandeered four planes on September 11, 2001, taking the lives of over 3,000 people and taking us […]

Karen Hughes’ Challenge

Since Sept. 11 , 2001, it has become commonplace to say that the United States is engaged in a war of ideas for the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims. Even Donald Rumsfeld has admitted that the metric for measuring success in a war against jihadist terrorism is whether the numbers we kill or deter […]

On the Frontlines of Freedom

Today on the world stage, particularly in Muslim nations, our military is too often viewed only as the enemy, a disturbing fact not lost on those who now wear the uniform. Make no mistake — death and violence are products of any war. But lost within today’s highly partisan environment are such deeply held goals […]

Madison Avenue’s Take on Brand America

If any country in the world can be viewed as a brand, it’s America. After all, we invented “branding.” So why, when we are the most powerful nation on earth and facing precarious times, can’t we leverage America’s brand assets? For inspiration and guidance, I returned to the basics of brand building that have worked […]

A View From Abroad

It is too late to walk or talk softly. The big stick—the enormous military might of the U.S.—bears its own ominous message, but the U.S. might try to promote its democratic ideals with more skill, conviction, and volume. Even the British, our most loyal consumers and faithful allies, are losing the faith, despite their relative […]

Q&A With Bill Thomas

Earlier this year, Congressman Bill Thomas announced his retirement after nearly 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. First elected in 1978, Thomas has served as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee since 2001. He recently sat down with the Ripon Forum to discuss his experiences in politics and share his thoughts on […]

No More Mistakes

As the world becomes increasingly focused on Iran’s nuclear activities, we are once again looking to our intelligence to determine what those activities mean.

Russia Under Putin: Neither Friend Nor Foe

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters were “outraged.” A Kremlin spokesperson denounced the speech as “inconceivable” and “subjective” in its interpretations of Russian internal affairs. Others in Moscow, as well as some in the West, called the speech a return to the Cold War. One Moscow headline suggested that U.S.-Russian relations were at their […]

How the Millennials Get Their News

Last year’s media coverage of the Gulf Coast hurricanes helped re-define the domestic political agenda leading into this year’s mid-term elections. But it wasn’t just storm coverage. Political damage control was in full effect, with elected officials from all sides of the political spectrum flocking to cable news channels to assuage public fears, tamp down […]

Immigration Reform: The Challenges Ahead

The immigration debate is at a fever pitch as the Ripon Forum goes to press. Only a fool would try to predict what will happen next, either in the Senate, which will probably vote this week, or in the skirmishing that could follow if lawmakers then move ahead to try to reconcile the Senate package […]

Back to the Moon… and Beyond!

A robust space exploration program is crucial to maintaining America’s scientific and technological preeminence in the twenty-first century. No other endeavor challenges us to develop innovative new technologies which often improve our quality of life, while simultaneously fulfilling the basic human need to explore new horizons.

Back to the Moon… But Let’s Fix NASA First

I believe that America – this time with her international partners – should go back to the moon.

The Back Page: Can you be a Republican and Still Like The Boss?

I got turned onto Bruce Springsteen the summer before my junior year in college. It was 1984. Born in the USA had come out on June 4th. And my friends and I were on a 10-day road trip to Florida before school started back up in the fall.

Ripon Profile of Susan Collins

I am a Republican because I believe in the core party principles of individual responsibility, personal liberty, federalism, and a strong national defense.

No More Mistakes

Intelligence community must get it right in assessing Iran’s nuclear capabilities

As the world becomes increasingly focused on Iran’s nuclear activities, we are once again looking to our intelligence to determine what those activities mean. 

Clearly, we have a problem on our hands when it comes to Iran. There is no question that the nuclear capabilities Iran is trying to develop are “dual use” – they could be used to produce electrical power or nuclear weapons material.

The Intelligence Community confronts this “dual use” dilemma every day, and it is precisely why we need good intelligence on Iran. When there is more than one plausible explanation for an action, good intelligence is essential for determining the plans and intentions of those that could threaten our national security. 

In light of Iran’s past actions, particularly their indisputable support of terrorism that has taken American lives, I am not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on these dual use nuclear activities. As some might recall, in early 2003, as we faced the prospect of war in Iraq, most of us weren’t inclined to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt on his dual use activity either. That’s why we depend on the Intelligence Community to help us see through our biases to get at the facts to help us separate what we know from what we think. 

I would like to say that the Intelligence Community has its act together in regards to our intelligence assessments about Iran’s nuclear activities. But the fact is, I am concerned. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s Iraq investigation revealed that Intelligence Community analysts failed to explain the difference between what they knew, what they didn’t know, and what they thought about Iraq weapons of mass destruction. We can’t afford to make those same mistakes on Iran. 

I have directed the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to apply  the lessons we learned in our Iraq review to the intelligence on Iran’s nuclear activities. We, as policymakers, must be more proactive in evaluating and analyzing all the intelligence we receive on this threat and others.  Unfortunately, some members of the Committee, and of the Senate, are more focused on intelligence failures of the past. 

I would like to say that the Intelligence Community has its act together in regards to our intelligence assessments about Iran’s nuclear activities. But the fact is, I am concerned.

We all know the intelligence on Iraq was wrong. We know the mistakes that were made. The Committee continues to look at the Iraq intelligence, but it is time to move on. My colleagues across the aisle on the Committee and in the Congress want to continue  looking at the past in an attempt to blame policymakers for decisions they made based upon the bad intelligence they received. As a result, we have not made progress on our oversight of critical Iran intelligence. 

I intend to complete the ongoing Phase Two inquiry (which includes the review of statements regarding Iraq made by public officials four or five years ago based on bad intelligence) in a timely manner and within the agreed upon scope and turn the Committee’s attention to other pressing national security matters such as Iran. We will then be able to bring more of the Committee’s assets to bear on questions surrounding Iran and its nuclear activities.

The Intelligence Community has had a significant increase in funding since 9/11. The question now is less a matter of resources. Rather, it is a matter of having thorough analysis that is honest about uncertainties. 

We need more aggressive collection that works to reduce those uncertainties. We must make sure we have both with regard to Iran’s nuclear plans and intentions.  

Pat Roberts is the U.S. Senator from Kansas and is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.