10 things that matter more to the fight against terror than a new acronym
Posted by Suzanne Nossel
Anne-Marie Slaughter at America Abroad, Fred Kaplan on Slate, Sid Blumenthal on Salon and the mainstream media have been buzzing this week about President Bush's pivot away from the language of Global War on Terror (GWOT) and toward the so-called Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, aka GSAVE.
For the record, led by Derek Chollet, we here at DA were writing about this months ago, opining here and here about what was - until Madison Avenue had its way - known as the Global War on Extremism (I personally think we all ought to stick with the Elmer Fuddish but factual GWOE rather than buying into the boosterist GSAVE).
Most commentators judge the rebranding of the fight against terror to be more politics than substance. So, in a month of dastardly attacks from London to Sharm el Sheikh to Baghdad, let's not let this bit of spin doctoring obscure all that needs to be done to shore up an anti-terror fight that is targetting an ever more complex, and constantly changing enemy. Here are 10 priorities:
1. Wage the War of Ideas in Earnest - The Administration has until now resisted calling the war on terror is a fight over values and purposes. That ideas play a role is, after all, potentially in tension with the view of Islamic terrorists as nihilistic and devoid of reason. But while the core of extremist terrorist groups may be a fanaticism too deep and immutable to be tackled with reason, beliefs and viewpoints certainly do matter in the outer spokes of terrorist support networks, to the ordinary people who either grant or deny terrorists the funds, political support and safe harbor they need to operate. These are the people we need to appeal to and pry away from their terrorist sympathies.
2. Recognize that U.S. Soldiers and Prison Guards are the Frontlines of Public Diplomacy - In waging a battle over ideas and perceptions among ordinary populations, what we do matters more than what we say. Like it or not, our military, our prison guards, and our private contractors are on the frontlines of public diplomacy. They do us proud much of the time, but the lapses that have occurred - some more than accidental - have hurt us badly by playing right into the worst fears and misperceptions about the United States. But the Administration remains in denial on this score.
3. Get Politics Out of Homeland Security - The shameless pork-barrelling of this month's Homeland Security budget dealt a blow to the anti-terror efforts. Whereas the 9/11 Commission and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made a compelling case that funds be strictly apportioned on the basis of threats, the Senate decided on its own formula that shortchanges New York, California, and our ports and nuclear facilities for the benefit of unlikely terrorist targets like Wyoming, Idaho and Maine.
4. Put Forward A Clear Strategy For Iraq - Without a strategy to achieve U.S. goals in Iraq, no matter what we call the fight against terrorism, many Americans will fear that we are losing on the most important front. This is not because we are fighting terrorists in Iraq to avoid fighting them here. Rather, inadequate planning, a shaky justification for war, and inadequate global support have enabled America's enemies to use the struggling Iraq effort as a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment. Bush claims to be committed to seeing Iraq through to stability, yet this week's talk is of a pullout. More on what needs to be done here and here.
5. Refocus on Counter-Proliferation - Everyone agrees that the gravest terrorist danger is that posed by a nuclear weapon in terrorist hands. Yet as Peter Scoblic writes in the latest New Republic (tip to Matthew Yglesias) the Bush Administration is doing a dismal job responding to this threat. To encapsulate, the Administration's focus on countries' intentions (good or evil) has eclipsed efforts to hold in check their capabilities, with the result that while we've deliberated over the potential for regime change in places like North Korea and Iran, they've continued to build their nuclear capabilities unfettered by the flawed non-pro regimes that Bush has done little to try to improve.