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May 31, 2005

Global Strategy for GWOE
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

OK, any post where I can link the war on terrorism/extremism to Elton John has GOT to be good.  Here goes:

Derek put up a nice post over the weekend summarizing what we know, and what we'd like to see, about the Administration's recognizing it needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new comprehensive and thought-through strategy for the Global War on Extremism, GWOE.  I'd like to spell out some more of the things the country needs to see in such an agenda, whether it comes from the White House, progressives, or anybody else.

Here's my five-part agenda:

I.  Diplomatic:  Redefine the war on terror in a way that our friends and partners can and will get on board.  We have failed dismally at this so far -- instead we have a rubric that our partners use to excuse massacres, mass detentions, and other actions that actually strengthen extremists -- and  further blacken our name and our legitimate security goals.

II.  Programmatic: Then, show the world that we are serious about this redefinition by following through on its non-military pieces -- fully funding the assistance programs we have announced with such fervor, for example, and stepping up to help end the festering conflicts that breed cynicism about whether the US and the developed world really give a damn about anyone else.  See democracyarsenal on darfur for one way to do that.  Dear old Bob Geldof is doing his best to gin up a major embarrassment for us at the next G8, where rock stars doing a LiveAid redux will get hundreds of thousands of Europeans to demand that the G8 "Make Poverty History."  Yes, this is where Elton John comes in, and his comment on his participation, embarrassing as it is, should stand for a whole lot of folks: 

"When the Live Aid concert happened 20 years ago I was pretty much a self-obsessed drug addict and, although I was really pleased to be part of a great day, I really wasn't adult enough or mature enough to realize the full consequences of what we were doing," John said. "Now I'm fully aware of what's going on and seeing the injustices going on."

C'mon, it doesn't get better than that.  Now back to serious foreign policy commentary.

III.  Domestic.  As Jim Hoagland pointed out in his column on Sunday, "confusion and drift mark public understanding of what the risks are here at home and what we should be doing about them.  Even Tom Ridge now admits that the color-coded system is confusing and was used dubiously during the election campaign.  A real strategy would:

-- focus on possible targets that could do the most damage, such as chemical plants, and squash industry objections to new standards that would make plants safer (and, by the way, make workers safer on a daily basis);

-- make sure first responders across the country have the tools they need to do their jobs, leapfrogging the appropriations process that has left Wyoming and Alaska first-responders better provided for than those in big urban areas if need be;

-- now that we've taken steps to fix ourr broken visa process and let foreign students back in, fix the broken process that has made so many immigrants and non-citizens feel like unwelcome suspects, and communicate to the American people that we don't need to be heedlessly afraid of foreigners in general and Muslims in particular;

-- while we're at it, some honest, non-inflammatory communication across the board would be in order.  This would require a non-aggression pact between the parties that would prevent dubious heightened security alerts on the one hand, and dubious critiques on the other.  Hey, I can dream, can't I?  Eventually, though, the politicization of the GWOE is going to discredit all sides.  (See under:  EU and its problem with getting its citizens to take it seriously.)

IV.  Military.  Confront the gap between our military ambitions and capabilities honestly.  During the Cold War, Americans who wanted to know understood that our military was keyed to being able to fight 2 1/2 wars simultaneously. 

An intelligent layperson -- and many specialists, for that matter -- couldn't tell you what set of contingencies our military is keyed to today, let alone whether they agree with it.  Having the experts debate that honestly will let us move to a more realistic discussion about military size, and where those people are coming from, as well as choices about technology, force structure, etc.  Opening a public discussion among experts would also be the best way of taking at least some of the politics out of this topic as well.


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More focus on Afghanistan would ensure that at least one of our liberal-democracy endeavors looks to be working. If Afghanistan is controlled by drug barons and Iraq is in a low-intensity civil war, what Muslim people will take our vision seriously?

Afghanistan was a better place to start the democracy domino effect anyway, why let the opportunity pass?

Great list... but it's only four steps, not five :)

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