- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

"War" is a popular theme these days. When asked why he disliked puddings, Winston Churchill jokingly replied, "because they lack a theme."
In the aftermath of September 11, Churchill's observation has traction. And, beyond the need for a theme, there are other deficiencies that must be addressed if the United States is to assure its future security.
The Bush administration has already declared one war against global terrorism and is contemplating another against Saddam Hussein. The president believes a nuclear-armed Saddam is an unacceptable threat to peace and security. Only a change in regime can end that danger.
Some in his administration believe a war against Iraq may be the most effective or least costly means of winning the broader fight against terrorism through the message sent to those in the region and elsewhere wishing us ill.
American forces military and others are actively engaged around the world in this first war and most likely preparing for the second. Meanwhile, the importance of homeland security to prevent future September 11 type attacks is a painful reminder of another front in this global fight.
The last multifront hot war was World War II. The theme then was unambiguous unconditional surrender of the Axis powers. The strategy was equally clear: "win" first in Europe and "hold" in the Pacific until Adolf Hitler was defeated when the full resources of the Allies would be sent to finish off the Japanese. And unconditional surrender allowed the Allies to occupy the defeated enemy and eventually turn those states into vibrant and exemplary democracies. Often, simplicity is clearer in retrospect. But, the strategy and the aims worked and worked well. Clarity of theme helped.
Today, however, the theme for the administration's strategy and aims is still a work in progress and thus far more directed at correcting symptoms and not causes of what worries us most. Enduring Freedom ended the Taliban rule in Afghanistan and put a big dent into al Qaeda. But that story is far from over and it is difficult to see what long-term solutions are being put in place to prevent future Osama bin Ladens from metastasizing into full-blown dangers. And who is the enemy?
President Bush's original "axis of evil" consisted of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Yasser Arafat has been added as a de facto member, labeled unacceptable as chairman of the Palestinian Authority. If the briefing recently given to a senior Pentagon advisory board reflects administration thinking, Saudi Arabia could also become a junior member of the enemies club. And if war against Iraq does ensue, are those who are not with us against us and therefore to be declared enemies as well?
To use Churchill's critique, the Bush administration needs a strategic theme. Suppose Iraq and Saddam prove eccentric to the more vexing challenges of containing the Israeli-Palestinian and India-Pakistani crises that seem to grow more desperate every day? And regardless of how deftly any military campaign may be conducted, public discussion of postwar aims and consequences is markedly absent. Beyond that, there are other deficiencies.
While debate centers on the new Homeland Security Department, the real issue is the overall structure of the nation's national security organization. Called "dysfunctional" by the Hart-Rudman National Strategy Commission last year, this structure remains based on the old National Security Act of 1947 and the Cold War. If we are serious, then we need to fix that structure rather than use the creation of a new department as a surrogate. Understandably, that debate would be even more intense. However, there is no alternative.
Second, there is a people deficit. Homeland security requires enlisting hundreds of thousands more Americans in this endeavor as well as retaining those who already work both in federal and state governments. As yet, we have not defined how we propose to do this nor created the incentives and means to ensure enough good people take up this calling.
Finally, the causes that produce extremists such as bin Laden remain. A new version of the old Marshall Plan that goes beyond economic aid is needed. That plan must be able to cope with extremes that range from reducing poverty in Pakistan that forces many of its youth to madrasses (radical religious schools) in order to obtain food and shelter along with rapid anti-American indoctrination to redressing the autocratic nature of regimes that disenfranchise and embitter its citizens to the point of following in bin Laden's footsteps.
This gives the administration a twin challenge. As of yet, no clear strategic theme has emerged. One must. And, the other part of strategy the organization, people and actions to succeed after the war can only be neglected at great risk. The task is huge. But what is the choice?

Harlan Ullman's latest book, "Unfinished business: Afghanistan, the Middle East and Beyond Defusing the Dangers that Threaten America's Security," was just published.

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