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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Clarke Stays on Point

Richard Clarke has an OpEd in the NY Times, detailing his educated opinion of the 9/11 commission's report and the suggestions for improvement contained within. The man knows his stuff and has a holistic understanding that seems to be beyond the grasp of Bush, his cohorts, handlers, and minions. Clarke also understands that the nation's response to the commission's findings must go far beyond simple bureaucratic efficiencies; to succeed our response must be more than simply procedural and personnel enhancements.

Even more important than any bureaucratic suggestions is the report's cogent discussion of who the enemy is and what strategies we need in the fight. The commission properly identified the threat not as terrorism (which is a tactic, not an enemy), but as Islamic jihadism, which must be defeated in a battle of ideas as well as in armed conflict.

We need to expose the Islamic world to values that are more attractive than those of the jihadists. This means aiding economic development and political openness in Muslim countries, and efforts to stabilize places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Restarting the Israel-Palestinian peace process is also vital.

Also, we can't do this alone. In addition to "hearts and minds" television and radio programming by the American government, we would be greatly helped by a pan-Islamic council of respected spiritual and secular leaders to coordinate (without United States involvement) the Islamic world's own ideological effort against the new Al Qaeda.

Unfortunately, because of America's low standing in the Islamic world, we are now at a great disadvantage in the battle of ideas. This is primarily because of the unnecessary and counterproductive invasion of Iraq. In pulling its bipartisan punches, the commission failed to admit the obvious: we are less capable of defeating the jihadists because of the Iraq war.

Unanimity has its value, but so do debate and dissent in a democracy facing a crisis. To fully realize the potential of the commission's report, we must see it not as the end of the discussion but as a partial blueprint for victory. The jihadist enemy has learned how to spread hate and how to kill - and it is still doing both very effectively three years after 9/11.

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