by Austin Bay
June 7, 2006
President George W. Bush's May 27 commencement address to the
2006 West Point graduating class made it clear he knows the War on Terror
will grind on for years.
Last year, I criticized the Bush administration for
neglecting -- at least in public -- the "multi-administration" character of
the War on Terror. In the July 25, 2005, issue of The Weekly Standard, I
"Al-Qaida's jihadists plotted a multigenerational war. In the
early 1990s, our enemies began proselytizing London and New York mosques
and, in doing so, began planting cadres throughout the world. Even if
Washington leads a successful global counter-terror war, many of these
cadres will unfortunately turn gray before it's over. That means a
multi-administration war. ... The Bush administration has not done that --
at least, not in any focused and sustained fashion."
Bush's speech indicates he intends to build a
multi-administration policy framework to fight a long war of ideological and
political attrition -- a strategic vision that will survive the whipsaw of
the U.S. presidential political cycle.
Harry Truman prepared America for the Cold War -- and at West
Point, Bush compared our moment in time to that of Truman, circa 1950. Bush
pointed out that "Truman laid the foundation for freedom's victory in the
Cold War." Then he said his own administration is "laying the foundation for
victory" in our new long war.
The Cold War analogy only goes so far. Bush noted that while
"mutually assured destruction" (with nuclear weapons) worked on the Soviet
Union, it won't work on Islamist terrorist, though there are "important
similarities. ... Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a
Strategic "containment" stopped the Soviets' murderous ideology
because the Soviets -- as Russians -- had a nation-state to lose. Al-Qaida's
Salafist (Islamo-fascist) ideology presents a different problem. The Arab
Muslim world's long-term political and economic failure seeds the discontent
on which al-Qaida-type terrorists thrive. Salafism frees its faithful from
responsibility by blaming everyone else for eight centuries of decline.
Bush believes Muslim nations -- and everyone else -- can make
modernity work. At West Point, Bush dubbed America's new strategy as "a
forward strategy of freedom." Bush argued American security depends "on the
advance of freedom" in other nations and pointed out that "accommodation" in
the Middle East "did nothing to make us safe."
A "forward strategy of freedom" means fostering the development
of states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where
terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted. Implementing that strategy means
nation-building. Since the 2000 presidential campaign, the Bush
administration has done a necessary 180 on nation-building. Bush entered
office disdaining it. Sept. 11 changed that calculus.
Sept. 11 made it clear that economic and political
development -- the expansion of the sphere of economically and politically
liberal states -- is key to America's 21st century security. What Al Toffler
called the "slow" and "fast" worlds became the Pentagon's world of "gaps"
and "cores." "Gaps" with Muslim populations were the most critical, but
every "gap" dictatorship can also provide haven to terrorists in exchange
Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of "heavy-lifting"
nation-building. These "first efforts" may prove to be the most difficult.
Every major war has a bitter learning curve.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "transformational
diplomacy" is another tool for implementing a "liberation" strategy. Rice
intends to pursue "proactive" diplomacy, where on-the-ground diplomats
identify emerging social and political currents, economic prospects and new
leaders so that they can better shape future circumstances. Rice's diplomacy
is more "people-to-people" than "elite-to-elite." With instant
communications a strategic fact, this diplomatic focus is critical.
In April 1950, the "unpopular" Truman administration produced
NSC-68, a strategic study that shaped U.S. foreign policy for five decades.
In 1953, the Eisenhower administration "tested" NSC-68 with a secret
analysis commissioned by President Eisenhower (the Solarium project). Ike's
group ratified NSC-68's basic strategy of containment.
Ike understood defeating the Soviets required sustained and
steady U.S. leadership. The United States was the only free nation capable
of organizing, facilitating and coordinating a global campaign against
aggressive, imperial communist tyranny.
In the 21st century, defeating Islamo-fascism -- another
imperial tyranny and utopian ideology -- will require the same sustained