The United States needs to communicate its messages more effectively and a new agency would help fight a “war of ideas” against international terrorism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday in an interview with The Washington Times.
Commenting on a memorandum sent to top Pentagon officials, Mr. Rumsfeld also said the Defense Department and U.S. government could be reorganized to deal more effectively with 20th-century threats.
“We are in a war of ideas, as well as a global war on terror,” Mr. Rumsfeld said during an interview at the Pentagon with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.
“And the ideas are important, and they need to be marshaled, and they need to be communicated in ways that are persuasive to the listeners,” he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said, “In many instances, we’re not the best messengers.
“The overwhelming majority of the people of all religions don’t believe in terrorism,” he said. “They don’t believe in running around killing innocent men, women and children. And we need more people standing up and saying that in the world, not just us.”
The defense secretary said his recent memorandum was inspired by an Oct. 16 meeting with top military commanders, where he posed questions about fighting the war against terrorism.
The memo was intended to “inject a sense of urgency” into top leadership, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
“It is human nature to have your mind focused by fear or necessity for a period — necessity is the mother of invention and fear focuses the mind. Both are true — and then time passes,” he said. “And there’s a danger that that sense of urgency can ease and relax.”
The memo was meant to inspire war fighters and defense officials to consider what is lacking. Mr. Rumsfeld said he hopes they will start asking themselves: “Are there things we aren’t doing that we might be doing?”
He said that creating a post for an undersecretary for intelligence and merging agencies into the Homeland Security Department were bold steps, but more can be done.
Mr. Rumsfeld suggested a “21st-century information agency in the government” to help in the international battle of ideas, to limit the teaching of terrorism and extremism, and to provide better education, he said.
His memorandum said private organizations could counter Islamist “radical madrassas.”
Asked why he thought that little had been done to develop a long-range plan for fighting terrorism, Mr. Rumsfeld blamed government bureaucracy.