- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 17, 2005

“Peace through Strength” is a phrase that has served as a rallying cry for presidents over the last half-century and is not lost on today’s “war on terrorism.”

Thankfully, in the years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, most lawmakers have understood the importance of military strength. In fact, the United States has increased its defense budget more than $200 billion since 2000, and last year only 14 representatives voted against the defense appropriations bill.

American’s armed forces are maintaining freedom in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And the message from Capitol Hill is that these brave men and women must be the world’s best trained, best equipped and best led. Transforming to a lighter and more mobile military is far from complete, but there have been significant steps.

The United States is now militarily strong but lacks strength in diplomacy. The American cause is misunderstood in many parts of the world, and we have not appealed to global hearts and minds. Our communication failure is ironic, because America invented both Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

Nevertheless, America has clearly failed to promote acceptance of its mission and goals overseas. Both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged this when they announced the appointment of Karen Hughes as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. They also vowed a vigorous response to foreign governments and news outlets accusing the U.S. of being an evil force.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved Mrs. Hughes July 26 and she was sworn in Sept. 9. She will try to convince the world of America’s “goodness and decency.”

Developing public opinion obviously involves many factors. But in retrospect it now appears the Clinton administration made a mistake in 1999 when it terminated our major public arm, the United States Information Agency (USIA). USIA was merged with the State Department that year, and the post of undersecretary of state for public diplomacy was created.

Karen Hughes now confronts an extremely daunting task. Her two predecessors, Margaret Tutwiler and Charlotte Beers, lasted six and 17 months respectively, and both spoke of constant frustrations in coping with the Foreign Service bureaucracy. This is one reason the office was vacant for 25 months of the Bush administration.

According to the Heritage Foundation, “Hughes will take over a bureaucracy that is in disarray, in a department that doesn’t want it. … In 1999, State devoured and scattered USIA’s personnel and bureaus. Next, senior managers created the undersecretariat as an advisory position with no significant budget and no authority over public diplomacy personnel.”

America’s most troublesome security problems are in predominantly Muslim countries. The United States is certainly not against the Islamic faith, and since 1990 has fought in six wars to protect Muslims. The United States liberated Kuwait, as well as 25 million people in Afghanistan and another 25 million in Iraq. America saved 250,000 people in Somalia and it stopped the “ethnic cleansing” and massive human-rights violations in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Unfortunately, this message has not been relayed to many parts of the Middle East. America does not dictate to any nation, but is keenly interested in promoting democracy, good governance, the rule of law, an independent media, religious freedom, the rights of women and strengthened institutions of civil society.

America’s message is not getting across largely because there is little coordination of overall strategy. I hope Mrs. Hughes will not confine herself to the State Department corridors but act as a public diplomacy czar in coordinating many divergent programs. At present, there is too much overlap and many vital outreach efforts are ignored.

Since governor of Texas, President Bush has had great confidence in Karen Hughes. The president has now assigned her to one of his administration’s most difficult tasks, and he must provide her the tools she needs. Her task is so important I believe she should be a member of the National Security Council. In addition, Clinton administration personnel decisions should be reversed.

The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs must ensure our government always proclaims the universal values America espouses — democracy, free markets, human rights and equal justice under law. They represent the strongest weapons in America’s arsenal and are the ultimate guarantors of our freedom and national security.

She said the “way to prevail in this struggle is through the power of our ideas. I recognize that the job ahead will be difficult; perceptions do not change quickly or easily. We don’t expect instant results.” It is clear the president and the Senate have full confidence in her abilities to do the job.

Robert H. Spiro Jr. holds a doctorate in European history and is a former university professor, dean and president. A combat veteran of naval warfare in the Pacific in WWII, he is a rear admiral in the Naval Reserve and former undersecretary of the Army for President Carter. He is chairman of the American Security Council Foundation.

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