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May 29, 2005

More on GWOE
Posted by Derek Chollet

The Washington Post leads this morning with more detail on the Administration’s slow shift from the GWOT to GWOE (global war on terrorism to a global war on extremism, for those who need a refresher).  There’s not much new scoop from what we already knew about this policy review, other than – surprise! – officials recognize the weakness of their public diplomacy and see that their efforts are being hampered by vacancies in key jobs (calling Karen Hughes!).  As one anonymous source admits:

"They recognize there's been a vacuum of leadership," said a former top counterterrorism official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "There has been a dearth of senior leadership directing this day to day. No one knows who's running this on a day-to-day basis."

Part of the problem is bureaucratic inertia; another is a loss of direction at the highest levels.  As we approach 4 years after 9-11, we lack any measure (or, as Rumsfeld might put it, metrics) on how we are doing in the fight against extremism.  We also lack any sense of direction if, god forbid, we get hit again.  As Jim Hoagland explains in his column today:

“Confusion and drift mark public understanding of how individuals, communities and the nation as a whole should respond to terrorist strikes on U.S. soil. Citizens can learn more about how cities would be evacuated or other responses to a future Sept. 11-type event from watching doomsday television dramas such as "24" than from the administration.

A refocusing of the war against terrorism needs to come in several forms, from high-profile presidential speeches to secret strategy documents that will shape campaign orders to troops in the fields.

The effort should start with Bush's public declarations during this year's commemoration of American valor on the battlefield. His visionary rhetoric about freedom and American values helped rally the nation during the shocks of the past four years. The reassuring approach, he can argue, has kept public anxiety to a minimum.

But the time for reassurance alone is over. It is time for details, for a sense of a blueprint, for a progress report that goes beyond listing what has happened to the top nine or 15 or 25 al Qaeda leaders targeted for capture or elimination. That simple, clear report should trace as well where the United States stands in fighting the Salafi extremist networks that intend to rule or destroy Muslim lands.”

Progressives should be demanding such a blueprint – and just as important, offering one of our own.


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