An extraordinary two-day conference in Washington
(much of it on C-Span) sponsored by the New
Security & America's Purpose" featured a host of scholars, elected officials,
intelligence experts, journalists, an others, from Tom Clancy and Grover Norquist
to George Soros and Ted Sorensen. Though perspectives varied widely, it is clear
that experts from all sides reached similar conclusions, namely that Americans
need to understand the enemy and that unending war and terrorism are not inevitable.
Below is a summary of some of the highlights. (Click
here for videos of the presentations.)
Reiss, former director of State Department policy planning, decried the
lack of foreign language studies in America, comparing the lack of federal support
to the hundreds of billions spent on the military. He explained that public
diplomacy is almost nonexistent: explaining American policies to foreigners
has now become dangerous in many nations. He added that every embassy needs
a rapid-response team to explain in local media Washington's actions, since
the old U.S. Information Agency was virtually liquidated at the end of the Cold
Harman of the House Intelligence Committee and Robert
Hutchings, now at Princeton University, urged changing the law to allow
different levels of security clearances (e.g., current law excludes most immigrants
with family ties abroad). This would allow hiring immigrants in America with
foreign language skills to fill the dearth of translators in the Arab world
and in Iraq. American soldiers are tremendously handicapped by the shortage.
Soros warned that Washington's excessive reliance on military force played
into the hands of the terrorists and that the "war on terror" was
doing more harm than good for America. He said the occupation of Iraq was the
greatest blunder in American history, that attitudes in the world had never
been so negative toward America. He warned that when "American bombing
creates innocent victims, we play into their hands."
Author Tom Clancy
was very well received. He said that in writing novels he always studies his
characters so he could see the world through their eyes. He warned against overestimating
one's enemies, saying that most battles are lost because of "idiots."
He argued that most human motivations are simple, and that one always needs
to "know one's enemies." His main point was that economic prosperity
would tremendously undermine terrorism, thus spreading it should be a major
objective of American policy.
One of the most interesting talks was by Robert
Pape, author of the new study, Dying
to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. His database of all
suicide terrorist attacks during the last 30 years shows that over half were
secular, and over 95 percent had a political objective. He said that al-Qaeda
was stronger today than before 9/11, having successfully stripped America of
allies. Most terrorist attacks in the world have been to rid nations of foreign
troops. He urged the U.S. to withdraw its military from Muslim lands while maintaining
strong naval forces within striking distance for future security, a policy called
"offshore balancing." Although some terrorist leaders might still
want to attack America, they would find it much harder to find suicide bomber
recruits after a withdrawal.
of the RAND Corporation and the International Peace Academy also urged Americans
to work with allies, saying that we had turned our back on the UN and other
international organizations, and that our intelligence is "hopeless"
unless we work with other nations.
Cressey, formerly with the National Security Council, called Iraq "the
war of unintended consequences" and argued that the U.S. message is lost
because it is not trusted by foreigners.
Senator Joseph Biden
claimed that most Republicans in Congress see allies and international agreements
as "tying down Gulliver." He said that Washington's unilateralism
has "given a green light to other nations to use force first, with minimal
Nir Rosen, New
Yorker writer and Iraq correspondent, urged Americans to pay attention
to what terrorists actually say and write. The U.S. leadership usually ignores
their statements when analyzing them.
Fouda, London bureau chief of al-Jazeera, also encouraged America to listen
to its enemies in order to understand them. He explained the Arab view as being
that America went looking for an enemy after the collapse of communism in 1990,
but he added that he now feels much more optimistic about America, and that
most Muslims now believe that America supports democracy and freedom in their
Former Gen. Wesley Clark
said that we can't win by just killing people and making new enemies, that we
must put ideology first. He also suggested that we develop a volunteer civil
defense corps to handle future terrorist events.
exhorted listeners to read the PATRIOT Act. He said that all new laws invading
constitutional freedoms should have sunset clauses to force reconsideration
after a few years. He pointed out that Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and other
key conservative leaders oppose parts of the PATRIOT Act and had preferred the
Senate version to the House one. He said that the center-right coalition needed
an ACLU- type organization to defend individual freedoms from government.
Cullen, former chief judge, U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals, decried
the torture of POWs, saying that the White House had written a brief for America's
future enemies. According to Cullen, most retired generals support the Warner/McCain
legislation to outlaw torture.
Ted Sorensen argued that public diplomacy, that is selling and explaining
American policies, sometimes means changing the policies. He urged talking to
one's enemies, citing how former President Kennedy (for whom he worked) picked
up the phone to talk to Khrushchev. He said that America would not be safer
by undermining our own values, that we should be careful about whom we call
a "terrorist," that Washington has undermined America by calling all
enemies terrorists, and that by current definitions, the Boston Tea Party would
be called a terrorist act. He said there could never be peace without a "mutually
acceptable Israeli-Palestinian settlement."
Francis (author of The End of History) Fukuyama's
talk warned that future terrorists would not necessarily be Arabs, but could
come be Muslim white Europeans such as the "shoe bomber." He argued
that even a "benevolent hegemon" needs to be competent, that America
now had tremendous credibility problems, that our ideas of American exceptionalism
were no longer accepted in the world.
Banquet speaker Senator Chuck
Hagel argued that America must engage its allies, and that we will not be
safer isolating ourselves from the world.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Kim
Campbell explained that criticism of American policies by our allies does
not mean that they are anti-American, but rather that they support and look
to American power and see Iraq policies as weakening America.
Former Congressmen Lee
Hamilton and Warren
Rudman argued that relying upon military force is by no means a sufficient
policy; we must reach out to moderate Muslims and do better in controlling the
dispersion of fissile materials.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright said that listening to foreigners is also a key part of public
diplomacy and that democracy is not imperialism.
Other key speakers included Dimitri
Simes, president of the Nixon Center, scholar Anatol
Lieven, Morton Halperin, Congressman Jim
Levy (co-author of the Geneva Initiative for Mideast Peace), and Galima
Bukharbaeva, who played a tape she took of the massacre in Uzbekistan.
It should also be noted that the second luncheon speaker was Juan Zarate,
deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for
combating terrorism. He claimed America is winning and had succeeded in killing
top deputies to bin Laden, including Mohammed Atta. Atta was the lead suicide
bomber on 9/11.
Very comprehensive were the summary
reports of several working groups. Their chairpersons spoke briefly explaining
the contexts, in particular areas of dispute and areas of agreement. These are
most interesting and relevant for current and future American policies. We can't
summarize all of them here, but note three major ones.
Louise Richardson, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at
Harvard, said that her group reached unanimity on the necessity for Washington
to focus on the causes of terrorism. "[Members] also reject the view that to
address grievances exploited by terrorist leaders is to reward terrorism; quite
the contrary, we agree that addressing these grievances is essential to diminishing
support for terrorism."
Susan Spalding, chair of the homeland security group, maintained that the debate
should not be seen as security vs. liberty. She decried the government's ever
growing secrecy as putting "Jersey barriers" between people and information.
She said the government's job was "risk management" rather than "risk
elimination," which is impossible. She said that since Katrina, fewer Americans
assume that the government will rescue them.
Prof. Charles Kupchan's group studied for the first time the role of religion
in formulating foreign policy. Note that no speaker focused on American fundamentalists
who, like many Muslims, also see Middle East war as a quick way of going to
paradise. Academics and intellectuals find it impossible to take seriously the
dreams of 20 million Americans hoping
for Armageddon in opposing meaningful peace negotiations.