– America needs a new security strategy to deal with evil-doers in the homeland
Two seemingly unconnected recent events but in reality intimately connected are sure signs that the war on terrorism is being lost.
Of course, we must begin with that old Chinese adage: When a fish starts rotting, it stinks first from the head. President Obama has undeclared the war on terrorism, refusing even to name the enemy. But it takes two to tango –and the Islamic terrorists cling to their effort to inflict hurt on the United States whenever and now, alas, wherever, they can.
The recent attack in Garland, Texas, revealed what the general public only had guessed: There are resident terrorists–some U.S. born, others naturalized citizens, some of Muslim descent, others converts to Islam–ready to spring into action. Whether, indeed, the Garland two were under the discipline of Daesh, the Islamic State, as claimed or “lone wolves” operating on their own may be irrelevant. FBI Director James Comey confirms our worst fears: There are hundreds if not thousands of American Daesh sympathizers.
The second event was the shift of Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, to become the State Department’s voice. However unprecedented and humiliating for State’s cadre, one guesses Foreign Service officers long have cringed as a duo of political hacks (Psaki and Harf) made a farce of the daily briefings. There was a bitter joke making the rounds: They might just start World War III with their ineptitude.
Whatever Mr. Obama’s reluctance to engage Daesh in Iraq and Syria with more than a token military force–e.g., aerial bombardment, a fraction of previous Mideast campaigns, a so-called 30-member coalition that doesn’t seem to have a central command–there is an even greater failing of intellectual engagement.
An analogy with the Cold War is all too obvious. Not only did the United States and its allies rise to the Soviet military threat with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the most successful alliance in history. But an American cultural offensive was constant through the official U.S. Information Agency and semi-official organizations such as Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The role of the U.S. Information Agency libraries, for example, while difficult to quantify, was enormous as a rallying point for factual information and propaganda to answer the onslaught of Soviet lies and their repetition by followers in the West. Nor are semi-hysterical cries of Islamophobia so different from shouts of McCarthyism, which too often excused covert members of the vast Communist conspiracy.
Today the United States not only faces the Islamic terrorists’ military threat, but propaganda waged so successfully on the social networks that it has enlisted thousands of recruits inside and outside the Middle East. That this has been accomplished despite their flagrant display of atrocities against American and foreign innocent civilians is remarkable. Just as during the Cold War, when U.S. policymakers had to cope with Europe’s neutralism, today it faces mobilizing the bulk of Muslims to stamp out terrorism in their ranks. Nor, with a traditional Islamic concept of taqiyya–the religious lie–is there all that much difference from Western Communists who kept their beliefs and activities secret.
With the Soviet implosion, American activities to sell its story of freedom and prosperity dimmed. The State Department takeover of the U.S. Information Agency has been a disaster. Just as immigration problems arose in part from an earlier takeover of the Consular Service, the professional diplomat appears unable to cope with the detailed special knowledge that goes with propaganda.
The time has come to resurrect an independent American propaganda agency, and to encourage the Ford and Gates foundations and others with their vast financial resources to undertake private initiatives as well. There are going to be new problems, of course. It appears unlikely that the Obama administration would endorse such an initiative, so Congressional leadership must move. The old fear, that government propaganda would have a blowback effect on domestic media, is even greater today with an Internet that hardly distinguishes national borders. Still, the Internet, with the help of those who know it best, must be a principal instrument of the new campaign.
An America whose popular culture penetrates every corner of the globe no matter how isolated–unfortunately sometimes with negative effect–certainly has the capacity to wage a worldwide campaign to expose Islamic terrorist horror, not least to their 1.3-billion fellow Muslims. Thinking about the problem needs to begin in Congressional, academic and nonprofit circles for an early implementation in a war against Islamic terrorism that shows every sign of growing with no quick victory in sight.
* This article was originally published in the Washington Times on May 11, 2015.