Jewish World Review July 27, 2004 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5764
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
The report issued last week with much fanfare by the congressionally mandated 9/11 Commission is a stunningly comprehensive litany of recommendations aimed at reducing America's still-acute vulnerability to terror. Commission members, victims' families and legislators are warning that a failure to act quickly on these prescriptions will translate not only into unnecessary risk of attack, but grave political repercussions.
As nothing less than the Nation's security is on the line, such warnings should be given every consideration. Unfortunately, the sheer volume, ambition and costs associated with the panel's recommendations dictate, as a practical matter, that some are going to receive more urgent attention than others.
Some are sensible, but difficult to do. For example, securing the country's borders is a vast, if absolutely necessary, undertaking. Others, like the eminently desirable idea of consolidating congressional terrorism-related oversight functions, have proven exceedingly resistant to previous reformers' efforts.
Then there is the most publicized of the Commission recommendations: the proposal to create a new "intelligence czar." This seems a classic Washington response to a real problem throw additional bureaucracy at it.
At best, the imposition of a Director of National Intelligence, with new staff and budgetary authority to manage the entire intelligence community, is likely to be disruptive during a time of war. At worst, it may actually prove counterproductive, leading either to new layers of officialdom that impede the efficient flow of information to policy-makers, or the sort of streamlining that precludes competitive collection and analysis of intelligence needed to counter "group-think."
Fortunately, there is a Commission recommendation that is both eminently doable and urgently needed.
The 9/11 Commissioners recognized that what we are fighting is not "terrorism" but a hostile ideology the radical, intolerant, jihadist faction of the Muslim faith known as Islamism that employs terror as a political instrument. They concluded:
"The United States has to help defeat an ideology, not just a group of people, and we must do so under difficult circumstances….The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors. America and Muslim friends can agree on respect for human dignity and opportunity. To Muslim parents, terrorists like Bin Ladin have nothing to offer their children but visions of violence and death. America and its friends have a crucial advantage we can offer these parents a vision that might give their children a better future….
"Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously….If the United States does not act aggressively to define itself in the Islamic world, the extremists will gladly do the job for us. Recognizing that Arab and Muslim audiences rely on satellite television and radio, the government has begun some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan. These efforts are beginning to reach large audiences. The Broadcasting Board of Governors has asked for much larger resources. It should get them."
The need to augment the instruments of ideological warfare is especially acute in Muslim nations where the cancer of Islamism is metastasizing. For example, the United States' efforts to define itself for critical Iranian audiences is limited to only one-half-hour of television news and information. Currently, the U.S. government has no television service to one of the most pivotal of Muslim nations, Turkey. Its Voice of America radio broadcasts to Pakistan are hampered by obsolescent transmitters in Tajikistan and it has no TV broadcasts in Urdu or other native dialects.
Meanwhile, the America government has no satellite television beamed into Afghanistan, where as with much of the rest of the developing world satellite dishes are sprouting like mushrooms after a rain. Its TV and radio are only available in Indonesia for four hours per day. And Arabic-speaking Muslims in Europe are unable to receive programming on one of the few new U.S. government-sponsored international broadcasting initiatives: the Alhurra television network. Meanwhile instruments of enemy propaganda, like al-Jazeera and hostile state-owned media are pumping out anti-American indoctrination in myriad languages around the world and around the clock.
The amounts of money required to expand access to the American ideology of freedom, respect for human rights and the rule of law to these and other critically important target nations of Asia and the Far East and to restore coverage cut off in recent years to the still-emerging democracies of the former Soviet bloc since additional funding was not provided to meet the pressing need for ramped-up Arabic-language broadcasting are relatively modest. The one-day costs of military operations in Iraq would go a long way towards paying for an entire year's worth of high-quality U.S. government and "surrogate" broadcasting everywhere we need to be.
While the White House and Congress wrestle over which of the other 9/11 Commission recommendations to implement, and exactly how to do so, they should come together promptly on at least one: Re-arming the United States government with the broadcast vehicles and other instruments needed to wage a war of ideas against an enemy that must be fought 24/7 at the ideological, as well as tactical, levels.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
© 2004, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.