On Point: From Cold War Containment to "A Forward Strategy for Freedom"


by Austin Bay
June 7, 2006


President George W. Bush's May 27 commencement address to the2006 West Point graduating class made it clear he knows the War on Terrorwill grind on for years.

Last year, I criticized the Bush administration forneglecting -- at least in public -- the "multi-administration" character ofthe War on Terror. In the July 25, 2005, issue of The Weekly Standard, Iwrote:

"Al-Qaida's jihadists plotted a multigenerational war. In theearly 1990s, our enemies began proselytizing London and New York mosquesand, in doing so, began planting cadres throughout the world. Even ifWashington leads a successful global counter-terror war, many of thesecadres will unfortunately turn gray before it's over. That means amulti-administration war. ... The Bush administration has not done that --at least, not in any focused and sustained fashion."

Bush's speech indicates he intends to build amulti-administration policy framework to fight a long war of ideological andpolitical attrition -- a strategic vision that will survive the whipsaw ofthe U.S. presidential political cycle.

Harry Truman prepared America for the Cold War -- and at WestPoint, Bush compared our moment in time to that of Truman, circa 1950. Bushpointed out that "Truman laid the foundation for freedom's victory in theCold War." Then he said his own administration is "laying the foundation forvictory" in our new long war.

The Cold War analogy only goes so far. Bush noted that while"mutually assured destruction" (with nuclear weapons) worked on the SovietUnion, it won't work on Islamist terrorist, though there are "importantsimilarities. ... Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of amurderous ideology."

Strategic "containment" stopped the Soviets' murderous ideologybecause the Soviets -- as Russians -- had a nation-state to lose. Al-Qaida'sSalafist (Islamo-fascist) ideology presents a different problem. The ArabMuslim world's long-term political and economic failure seeds the discontenton which al-Qaida-type terrorists thrive. Salafism frees its faithful fromresponsibility by blaming everyone else for eight centuries of decline.

Bush believes Muslim nations -- and everyone else -- can makemodernity work. At West Point, Bush dubbed America's new strategy as "aforward strategy of freedom." Bush argued American security depends "on theadvance of freedom" in other nations and pointed out that "accommodation" inthe Middle East "did nothing to make us safe."

A "forward strategy of freedom" means fostering the developmentof states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and whereterrorists are prosecuted, not promoted. Implementing that strategy meansnation-building. Since the 2000 presidential campaign, the Bushadministration has done a necessary 180 on nation-building. Bush enteredoffice disdaining it. Sept. 11 changed that calculus.

Sept. 11 made it clear that economic and politicaldevelopment -- the expansion of the sphere of economically and politicallyliberal states -- is key to America's 21st century security. What Al Tofflercalled the "slow" and "fast" worlds became the Pentagon's world of "gaps"and "cores." "Gaps" with Muslim populations were the most critical, butevery "gap" dictatorship can also provide haven to terrorists in exchangefor cash.

Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of "heavy-lifting"nation-building. These "first efforts" may prove to be the most difficult.Every major war has a bitter learning curve.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "transformationaldiplomacy" is another tool for implementing a "liberation" strategy. Riceintends to pursue "proactive" diplomacy, where on-the-ground diplomatsidentify emerging social and political currents, economic prospects and newleaders so that they can better shape future circumstances. Rice's diplomacyis more "people-to-people" than "elite-to-elite." With instantcommunications a strategic fact, this diplomatic focus is critical.

In April 1950, the "unpopular" Truman administration producedNSC-68, a strategic study that shaped U.S. foreign policy for five decades.In 1953, the Eisenhower administration "tested" NSC-68 with a secretanalysis commissioned by President Eisenhower (the Solarium project). Ike'sgroup ratified NSC-68's basic strategy of containment.

Ike understood defeating the Soviets required sustained andsteady U.S. leadership. The United States was the only free nation capableof organizing, facilitating and coordinating a global campaign againstaggressive, imperial communist tyranny.

In the 21st century, defeating Islamo-fascism -- anotherimperial tyranny and utopian ideology -- will require the same sustainedeffort.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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