- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008


In a recent article in these pages (“New security directions” Jan. 21) I suggested a new executive department organizational structure for national security: A rejuvenated National Security Council, operationally enhanced Defense and State Departments, a vastly improved consultative relationship with Congress and some major functional revisions to the intelligence community.

That’s only part of what needs to be done: Even if a new administration can reorganize itself along these lines, it must also revise the basic national security policies George H.W. Bush (41), Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (43) have practiced for the last 20 years. They have far more in common than most Americans realize. However, as important as that revision is, it probably won’t happen if senior national security people from either the Bush or past Clinton administration are brought in or “carried over” by the next administration. Democrat or Republican, we need a whole new national security team in 2009.

Furthermore, we need a return to a Reagan administration approach to national security, and to update some of the doctrines that worked particularly well for the Carter administration. Such is likely the only way we will be able to put an end to the means and support of terrorism.

What would a “Reagan approach” to the threat from terrorism look like? First, covertly and openly sponsored terrorism is every bit as dangerous to us — and in some ways more so — than was the Soviet Union during the worst years of the Cold War.

Nevertheless, we have not yet mobilized our national security resources against terrorism in a total commitment for victory as we did in the Cold War. This despite our recent successes in Iraq, which are directly related to the “surge” — and also something we should have done years ago.

A further note about that: For all of George Bush’s (43) rhetoric — most of which was very good and timely — we never took the kind of sustained action necessary to win in Iraq, until the “surge.” Why this took so long to figure out is a mystery to many patriots, Democrat and Republican alike. Did the operative departments of government lack the capability to execute the plans and operations that were needed? Was the war paced by political and other considerations not related to the actual situation on the ground?

Compared to this, a “Reagan approach” is simple: A total commitment to idea that “we win and they lose” — the antithesis to half measures and gradualism.

Next, this is also an ideological war, and we are losing this part of it — and badly. There seem two basic reasons for this: We have a hard time sustaining the belief that an ideology so backward and intellectually corrupt is seriously competing with our modern view of life.

It’s about time we accept it, because there are perhaps millions of Islamic radicals (many heavily armed) obsessed with turning back the clock of world civilization 1,000 years or more. This was clear to us after the 1993 World Trade Center attack and again after the September 11, 2001, attacks, but we have already slipped back into a dangerous apathy.

We must remember that Islamic radicals also have a “simple approach” to war: They intend to kill us all.

As a government we have been unable to use — against terrorism and Islamic radicals — the dramatically effective tools of public diplomacy that our private and commercial sectors use every day. This results from a combination of anachronistic laws and turf battles between various factions and departments in the executive department.

In short, the “public affairs” parts of our government are at war with the “information operations” parts of our government. This internal struggle seems easy enough to resolve by empowered and enlightened national security leadership, and, if necessary, direct intervention of the president.

What other new tools do we need to correct the often confusing and naive policy course we have taken over the last 20 years — a course that has not produced the environment needed for our longer-term security? Here are two key ones:

Information. We must be able to get and integrate all the terrorist threat-relevant information that flows around the world, though the atmosphere and over the Internet, whichever category it falls in. At least conceptually, this is similar to the dynamics of collecting traditional “signals intelligence” and requires the same kinds of (albeit more intensive) oversight to protect our privacy.

Asymmetric responses. We must respond to terrorism and its sponsorship with a new and basic U.S. national security policy: “If you, your agents or factions attack or threaten us, you risk asymmetric and strategic attack on the critical elements of your continued existence as a political or economic entity, especially your leadership.” This is not a Cold War “Mutual Assured Destruction” or MAD doctrine — it is the half of it that pertains to the sponsors or enablers of terror. While I have urged this doctrine before in other contexts, there is a new NATO senior military reform study recommending strategic nuclear pre-emption against dangerous regimes with nuclear or other ambitions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Whatever we call our new policy (I like “Half-MAD”) we need it now.

Like the Cold War, we are again caught up in a worldwide struggle for our survival — and we must again focus the sustained and total of our collective power against these forces of evil. While saying, “we win and they lose” may be an oversimplification for some, it accurately summarizes the resolve required for us to prevail — there being no other rational choice and no other acceptable outcome to this struggle.

Daniel Gallington is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va.

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