TCS Daily


The Multi-Administration War

By Austin Bay - June 8, 2006 12:00 AM

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 wrote:

"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 murderous ideology."

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 for cash.

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 effort.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and TCS Daily contributing writer.

Categories:

9 Comments

nation building
If anyone reads the comments here, let me apologize in advance for repeating myself. But it is important to ask; how would you "do" nation building? Good intentions are only able to build roads but the destination is in question. For sixty years we have not had a clue how to build a new nation (rebuild, yes). To single out Bush for criticism about not doing a good job at nation building is mendacious. To offer him more time is a triumph of hope over experience. No US president (or any other outside actor, for that matter)has been able to do so. This is not to say it won't happen in time but as we stumble towards another illiberal, tribal society that selects its autocratic leaders by vote, let's not be confused about the role of US guidance to a new nation.

It was Churchill who really got the country thinking "Cold War" and we wasted trillions on it.
My learning was that Churchill not Truman got the country to realize the impending doom of the Cold War. So this great nation went out and spent trillions of dollars (In current money) fighting a political philosophy that the Von Mises declared would destroy itself. I actually believe Von Mises but hope that I am wrong so as to have some justification of the vast expenditures this country wasted fighting the first Cold War.

Advance to 2006. We are in a weird version of a "Cold War" against Terrorism. Just like the previous Cold War there are hot spots. And just like the previous Cold War, the USA is spending TRILLIONS on fighting it. Our last appropriations bill was 500 billion for defense and that DOES NOT INCLUDE IRAQ OR AFGANISTAN. No wonder people suspect the country is in a slow death economically.

The Elephant with the Explosive Vest
Terrorism has been practiced through human history, and it will continue to plague us long after Al Qaeda has expired. Clearly we're not going to convert a billion Muslims, nor are we going to end Extremism, so how can anyone win the "War on Terrorism"?

Like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Poverty," the obvious answer is that its a war that can't be won -- merely managed.

We won the Cold War because we persevered
We won the Cold War because we persevered, not because of any battle (Greece Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, etc.) that we fought or took sides in.

War exists as long as "the bad guys" want to fight. When "the bad guys" give up like the old Soviet Union did, then "the good guys" also quit.

Al Qaeda and company started the current war long before we even recognized we were in a war. If we follow the advice of John Murta and John Kerry (i.e. declare victory and go home like Presidents Nixon and Ford did in Vietnam), that will not end the war.

As long as your enemy want to fight, you are at war whether you want to be or not. Only the foolish think otherwise.

destroy itself?
I hope all those formerly captive peoples all over eastern europe and russia don't hear you suggest that they should have just waited till communism destroyed itself. I think, indeed know many of them who are really, really, happy that the process was speeded along. Same argument re Iraq, eventually Sadam would have died or been killed, maybe in another 20 years or so. Then his sons might have also lived only another 40 years or so. Do you also think that they should have just patiently wait for that particular tyranny to destroy itself?

We don't have to convert a billion Muslims
The majority of Muslims want nothing to do with what the terrorist are doing. I would be surprised if 1% of true Muslims actually directly supported terrorist activity. And if they follow the rules of normal human behavior only about 10% passively support terrorist. That leaves about 90% that just don’t want to get involved one way or another.

Think about the gay movement in the US. Resent studies have stated that only about 3-5% of the US citizens are gay. Add to this about another 10% that actively/passively support them. You can see how a small vocal/active group can influence the rest of the nation.

The same is true for the terrorist Muslims. The issue is when the other 85-90% of the people has had its fill of sitting back and letting the small % dictate policy and action. In the case of Muslims, yesterday’s action against Zarqawi shows what happens when people gets feed up with it. The majority of the people sit back and live their lives until the active small % starts to impact their life too much, then they act.

500 Billion is 4% of US GDP
Also the money we spent on the Cold War was hardly wasted. If you look around your house almost everything you see is a direct result of those expenditures.

TV, microwaves, cell phones, plastics, electronics, computers, etc are direct results of the Cold War military research. Almost all the technological advancements and break thoughts can be traced back to Cold War military research. With out these expenditures we would be living at about a 1950-1960’s technology level right now.

Also the total finial cost of the Iraq war has been stated to be between 200 and 600 Billion. That is about 1.5 – 4.5% of ONE year of the US GDP. Hardly a sign of economic death, and once Iraq’s economy kicks into high gear and we start trading products we will make that up quickly.

As for spending Trillions on making the USSR fall when it would have falling eventfully anyway. Why do we spend trillions on welfare and Medicare if people are just going to die anyway?

Defeating a Government vs. Individuals
The terrorists in Canada have demonstrated that anyone, anywhere at anytime can start an al Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell. And whether angered by Israel, the U.S. presence in the Middle East, and/or dictatorships in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc., the motivations for terrorists will remain.

Hamas is independent of Al Qaeda, which is independent of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- realistically, who is it that we have to defeat, and how do you expect that to happen?

Uhhhmmm
Churchill was a great leader, however my learning shows that Truman had much more effect on the US than he. Truman did get us started on the right track for the Cold war.

Von Mises was right that Communistic despotism would eventually destroy itself; he was one of the few. The US leftists worshipped the USSR &, even in the 1980s, were crowing about the strength of the USSR.

The $ spent fighting the Cold war was well spent, as evidenced by raw history. The $ we'll spend fighting terrorism will be seen as $ well spent. Can "we" fully wipe out all terrorism? Of course not, just as we still have *****. But we can show that terrorism will be punished, which will deter these terrorists who are @ heart cowards.

The only people who really believe the US is in an economic "slow death" are those who would kill our economy with confiscatory taxation & the type of wealth redistribution that always fails. Regular people out here in the real world are concerned over the deficits & are affected by the constant drumbeat from the old MSM & the left constantly predicting future gloom - when the economy is doing quite wonderfully.

TCS Daily Archives