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On Point

"Unified Action" in the 21st Century's War for Modernity


by Austin Bay
January 16, 2007

The War on Terror does not have a Winston Churchill, a bulldog poet defending civilization with both visceral determination and energizing eloquence. It does have George Bush's spine and Tony Blair's oratory, however.

As a tandem, President Bush's "Iraq War" speech of Jan. 10 and Prime Minister Blair's "British defense" speech of Jan. 12 aren't the poetic equivalents of Churchill's "Iron Curtain" address or his best wartime declarations, but for anyone who cares about liberty, justice and the consequences of capitulation to terror and tyranny, Bush's and Blair's one-two deliveries state the case.

Bush's address received far more coverage and critique. The media focused on the president's "troop surge" component -- adding 20,000 U.S. troops to the coalition forces deployed in Iraq.

Reinforcements and withdrawals have always been an option in Iraq -- they are what U.S. commanders have called operational adjustments based on "current requirements and conditions."

That's why I have believed and continue to believe a troop surge alone is of minimal value, despite the case Bush makes that immediate conditions in Baghdad require more military presence.

The rest of the speech demonstrated the Bush administration has reached the same conclusion -- a conclusion Blair's subsequent speech reinforced.

Consider two specific policies Bush discussed. The "hydrocarbon law" he advocated is a version of the "oil trust" concept many economists and Iraqis have advocated for several years. The state of Alaska has a similar program. Iraq considered instituting an oil trust in the 1950s, prior to the demise of its monarchy. The oil trust would put several hundred dollars a year into the pockets of every adult Iraqi. It immediately invests everyone in the economic success of Iraq's new democratic government.

Bush also said provincial reconstruction teams will be revamped. Economic development officers will embed with security forces. He called for "ways to mobilize talented American civilians to deploy overseas -- where they can help build democratic institutions in communities and nations recovering from war and tyranny."

In Department of Defense lingo, these are examples of "Unified Action." Unified Action means coordinating and synchronizing every "tool of power" America possesses to achieve a political end -- in this case, winning a global war for national survival against terrorists who hijack economically and politically fragile nations.

Have we failed to do this since 9-11? Yes. Up to this point, the military has improvised the economic and political components, yet they are the determinative elements in the Great 21st Century War for Modernity.

To be fair, we have never done this effectively or with sustained vigor. America's World War II planning genius, Gen. Albert Wedemeyer, argued we didn't do it well in that war, either, and thus "lost the peace" (i.e., entered the Cold War).

We must do it now, and we must do it well. Winning war in the Age of the Internet means improving neighborhoods and individual lives.

In his speech, Blair eloquently assessed these strategic challenges. He said we face an "utterly reactionary," but in terms of methods a "terrifyingly modern," global movement "akin to revolutionary communism in its early and most militant phase."

Blair said our enemies have realized "two things: the power of terrorism to cause chaos, hinder and displace political progress, especially through suicide missions, and the reluctance of Western opinion to countenance long campaigns, especially when the account it receives is via a modern media driven by the impact of pictures."

But here's the strategic key. "The world is interdependent," Blair said. That means "problems interconnect. Poverty in Africa can't be solved simply by the presence of aid. It needs the absence of conflict."

Blair understands economic and political development programs must reinforce security and intelligence operations.

Every war is a series of mistakes -- bloody, expensive mistakes. Ultimately winning a war demands perseverance and creative adaptation. War winners understand this terrible paradox. It exists because the enemy always "has a vote." The enemy also has a motive will and the ability to adapt.

The Great 21st Century War for Modernity is no different. Bush and Blair understand the stakes and the strategic requirements. Churchill would approve.

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